Sturgeons independence bid in tatters as FM savaged from within SNP

Nicola Sturgeon slammed by Scottish Conservatives

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Nicola Sturgeon’s independence bid has taken a knock, as the Scottish First Minister faced criticism from within the SNP. Jim Sillars, the party’s former deputy leader, said he hoped the UK Government would triumph in its legal battle with the SNP over the right to hold a second independence referendum. He said that a referendum on the issue would be nothing more than a “glorified opinion poll”, arguing that the result would be rendered meaningless by Unionist parties and voters boycotting it.

This comes as Ms Sturgeon faces a pivotal judgement on Scottish independence in just a matter of hours, as the supreme court is set to rule on whether the Scottish parliament can hold a second referendum on independence without Westminster approval.

Should the Supreme Court rule in her favour, the Scottish First Minister has said she wants to hold the next referendum on October 19, 2023.

The Supreme Court is deciding whether the draft independence referendum bill, drawn up by the Scottish government, would “relate to” a matter reserved to Westminster, which only MPs can pass laws about.

Constitutional issues are technically matters reserved for Westminster, and do not come under the remit of devolved powers.

Tomorrow’s Supreme Court ruling could be one of three options – an agreement for the referendum to go ahead, a rejection of the bill because its a reserved matter or judges could decide that it has nothing to do with them and push the matter back to Holyrood.

They could also ask the Scottish Government to publish the bill first and put it through Parliament before asking for it to be legally binding.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Sillars said the SNP leader had “put the cart before the horse”, claiming she had focused on staging a referendum without building up the majority support for independence which would be necessary for a referendum victory.

He said he hopes the Supreme Court concludes “the constitution is reserved and the Scottish Parliament cannot hold a referendum”.

The former SNP deputy leader said: “The referendum proposed by Nicola Sturgeon is nothing more than a glorified opinion poll, which, to be effective, would rely on Unionists taking part in the debate and the vote.

“Are we going to spend public money on a glorified poll in which only 50 per cent of the electorate turns out?… The result would have no effect.”

He added: “We have not built up the core vote required to win a referendum.

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“We need to build up support to a level where no Westminster government could deny a referendum. If we have a referendum first, I don’t think we would win.”

Judges at the Supreme Court heard two days of arguments over the issue in October.

They are due to announce the result at about 9.45am on Wednesday, with Court President Lord Reed – a Scottish judge – reading a summary of the judgement in the courtroom.

The UK Government said it is “perfectly obvious” that the fate of the union is reserved to Westminster, arguing that Holyrood does not have the power to hold a referendum on its continued existence.

Their lawyer said a referendum bill would be “self-evidently, squarely and directly about the Union”.

They said it was clear the Scottish government’s intention was “not just to have an opinion poll”.

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