In brief

Scotland calls for powers to hold second referendum, UK government says it would be “damaging distraction”

The UK is set to withdraw from the EU in 2020, Scottish government argues independence is the only way for Scotland to stay in

Sturgeon demands transfer of referendum powers, 19 December.
Sturgeon demands transfer of referendum powers, 19 December. Author: Scottish Government
The Scottish government has called for powers to call a second referendum on independence to be devolved to Scotland, following the SNP’s win in Scotland in the 12 December UK legislative election. The UK government insists on rejecting the request.

In the Queen’s Speech at the opening ceremony of the UK Parliament —where the British cabinet explains what its lines of action will be over the coming months—, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has stated that it wants a 2020 “of unity for Scotland, not of further division.” “As such,” the speech delivered by Elizabeth II 19 December goes on, “a second independence referendum next year would be a damaging distraction.” The text also recalls that the 2014 referendum was promised to be a “once in a generation” event.

By contrast, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said, also yesterday, that the decision on the date that independence must be voted again should be taken by “the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland.”

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU, due to take place 31 January 2020, entails a constitutional change which, according to the SNP, makes a second referendum on independence necessary, given the fact that in the 2016 EU membership referendum, 62% of the Scottish votes supported the “remain” option.

“We call on the UK government,” Sturgeon added, “to enter discussions about the Scottish government’s mandate” to hold the referendum.

In any case, Johnson has not explicitly responded to Sturgeon’s request, nor does the Queen’s Speech specifically say that the referendum cannot be held after 2021, despite the reference included in it that a vote on independence should only take place “once in a generation”.