It may be necessary to test Scotland’s right to hold a consultative referendum on independence in court, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told members of the Scottish National Party (SNP) on Friday. Speaking in Edinburgh on Brexit day she claimed that Britain’s exit from the EU “has put Scotland on the wrong road”. Sturgeon said that she will do “all that she can” to secure another referendum for Scottish independence in 2020. “The further down [the wrong] road we go, the longer it will take and the harder it will be to get back on the right one”, she argued.
“We will now ask the Electoral Commission to re-test the question: ‘Should Scotland now be an independent country?’”, she added.
Asking the Electoral Commission to approve of the wording of any referendum question is the “next practical step” which must be taken towards a second independence vote, Sturgeon explained.
Currently the Scots must seek permission from London in order to hold a referendum on independence. However, if Number 10 continues to refuse to grant permission for an independence referendum the Scottish government may need to take their chances with the judiciary for the right to hold a non-binding consultative vote in order to gauge the wider public's opinion on the matter, Sturgeon told her fellow SNP members.
Sturgeon emphasised that they must be patient to ensure that pro-independence activists win over enough support from their fellow Scots and that any referendum is both “legal and legitimate”.
Scottish voters rejected the call to split from the union in a 55% - 45% vote in September 2014. But that vote preceded the UK-wide referendum on EU membership which was held less than nine months later. While a majority of Brits voted to leave the EU 62% of Scots voted to remain part of it. Sturgeon noted the “real and profound sadness” and anger experienced by many Scots following the Brexit referendum result in June 2016.
She also announced a new Constitutional Convention of MPs, MSPs, former MEPs and councillors which will examine a “modern claim” for Scottish independence. The SNP’s budget for materials focused on campaigning for independence will also be doubled, she added.
On the same day the Scottish government published its perspective on the EU’s Strategic Agenda for 2020 - 2024. Scotland’s Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop says “Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its democratic will – but the Scottish Government is determined that our nation remains at the heart of Europe”. She recognises that Brexit will change how Scotland relates to the EU but not “the EU’s importance to Scotland”.