Politics

‘Waste of time and money!’ Sturgeon’s indyref plans slammed by former aide

Scotland would come back to UK after independence says expert

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Ex-SNP special advisor Alex Bell said Holyrood had received legal advice making it clear the Scottish Government doesn’t have the power to hold a new vote without Westminster’s permission. He slammed the SNP’s strategy as a waste of time and money.

Scotland’s First Minister wants a second referendum on Scottish independence in October next year. Ms Sturgeon has vowed to take legal action if the UK Government tries to block another vote.

Her Government is seeking a Supreme Court ruling on whether it can hold a referendum with the First Minister insisting whether it has the power to do so is an unresolved, constitutional question.

Scotland’s Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain, has said she would refuse to approve a Referendum Bill as being within the powers of the Scottish Government.

Mr Bell claimed the SNP’s leaders have been told the legal challenge would fail and the plan is a piece of theatre aimed at covering up how the party has failed Scottish nationalists.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Bell, a special adviser to the Scottish Government between 2011 and 2013, said: “The Scottish Government’s legal challenge on holding indyref2 is a waste of time and money.

“Since 2007, Nicola Sturgeon has known the law: it is Westminster’s call. Pursuing the matter after 15 years in office is a piece of theatre designed to disguise how the SNP has failed nationalists.”

He continued: “Put simply, the 2014 vote happened because the various players followed the law. The law has not changed since and neither has the advice.”

Mr Bell speculated losing in the Supreme Court could lead to Ms Sturgeon standing down amid mounting speculation about her future.

Scotland’s First Minister has said if the court ruling goes against her, she will seek to turn the next General Election into a de-facto referendum on independence, fighting it on the single question of whether Scotland should be independent.

The SNP has been approached for comment.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As the First Minister made clear in her statement to Parliament on June 28, the lawfulness of a referendum must be established as a matter of fact, not just opinion, and that is why the issue has now been referred to the UK Supreme Court, in line with the democratic mandate for an independence referendum.”

Scottish voters rejected independence in 2014, but Edinburgh says Britain’s departure from the European Union means the question must be put to a second vote.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruled out another referendum and argued Holyrood should focus on helping Scots with the cost-of-living crisis.

Tory leadership rivals Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have said more scrutiny of the Scottish Government would undermine Ms Sturgeon’s push for independence.

The two candidates competing to replace Mr Johnson want more focus on Holyrood’s record on health and education.

Scotland has the highest drug deaths in Europe and two thirds of the population is either obese or overweight.

At a leadership hustings in Scotland, Mr Sunak and Ms Truss ruled out granting another independence referendum if they were PM, saying the issue was settled when the last one was held in 2014.

Ms Truss told Conservative party members: “To me, we’re not just neighbours, we’re family. And I will never ever let our family be split up.”

The SNP said Scotland loses no matter who wins the contest and attacked the UK Government’s failure to deal with the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.

Mr Sunak said if he becomes Prime Minister, he would order senior Scottish Government officials to attend annual UK parliament committee hearings and make sure data on performance of Scottish public services was consistent with numbers published for England and Wales.

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