NICOLA Sturgeon has warned pro-UK politicians they have no right to oppose a second Scottish independence referendum when her SNP convinces a majority of Scots their future should lie outside of the UK.
She accepted it would be “wrong” for a second ballot to be held without evidence most people back independence.
But the First Minister and SNP leader told nationalists: “if we do succeed – when we do succeed” in achieving that, “no politician will have the right to stand in the way”.
Ms Sturgeon spoke out as she launched her party’s manifesto for the Holyrood election in front of 1400 party members at Edinburgh International Conference centre, describing the policy package as her “job application” to be First Minister. While polls show the SNP is on course to win a second majority in the Scottish Parliament – which would be the party’s third consecutive term in government – she told activists: “I take nothing for granted – and neither should you.”
On independence, the manifesto says: “We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”
Ms Sturgeon has already announced that the SNP will mount a fresh campaign to increase support for independence this summer and said: “If we don’t succeed, we will have no right to propose another referendum.”
She told the launch: “If there is to be a second referendum – whether that is in the next parliament or in a future parliament – we first have to earn the right to propose it.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the manifesto’s “woolly words” would not give the SNP a mandate for a new referendum: “It is not credible to say that opinion polls would give a mandate for holding a constitutional referendum.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson branded the manifesto “a recipe for more uncertainty”. She said: “Nicola Sturgeon had the chance today to set a course that leaves the division of the referendum behind us. Instead she has made it clear she wants to put Scotland through five more years of rancour over the constitution.”
And Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The truth is that for the SNP, the timing of any second referendum is down to the ONS – the opinion of Nicola Sturgeon. She will spend the next five years poring over the runes on independence when what Scotland deserves is five years for public services. We need a government that will get to grips with the challenges we face as a country right now, not obsess over independence.”