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Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon trains fire on Tories and Labour as independence court fight looms

ABERDEEN, Scotland — Nicola Sturgeon accused Westminster of lacking “any respect at all for democracy,” as she rallied her Scottish National Party ahead of a court battle for a fresh vote on independence.

Sturgeon’s electorally-dominant SNP — gathering for its annual conference in Aberdeen — is seeking a second vote on Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom, and it wants to take place in October next year.

As part of her government’s latest push for separation, Sturgeon is seeking a ruling from the U.K.’s top court on whether the Scottish Parliament, based at Holyrood, has the power to hold a second referendum without the consent of the U.K. government. The Supreme Court will on Tuesday and Wednesday hear arguments from the top lawyers of the Scottish and U.K. governments.

The first poll, lost by the pro-independence side in 2014, followed then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to temporarily hand Holyrood the power to hold a referendum.

Current PM Liz Truss has made clear there will be no repeat this time, pointing to the message from senior pro-independence figures including Sturgeon in 2014 that the referendum would be a “once in a generation” event.

Speaking Monday at the SNP’s first in-person conference since 2019, the Scottish first minister turned her fire on what she called Liz Truss’ “Tory misery-go-round,” but also aimed jibes at the opposition Labour Party, which she said was “just as committed to Brexit — a hard Brexit — as the Tories.” Labour also oppose the SNP’s aim of a second independence referendum.

“The problem is not just which party is in power at Westminster — the problem is Westminster,” Sturgeon said.

Speaking about Tuesday’s Supreme Court showdown, Sturgeon said: “If Westminster had any respect at all for democracy, this court hearing would not be necessary. But Westminster has no such respect.”

Legal experts and observers widely believe the Supreme Court will reject Sturgeon’s plea when it delivers its ruling, expected around or before Christmas this year.

If the courts do put the brakes on Sturgeon’s plan for a referendum, it will be time for what figures close to the Scottish first minister refer to as “Plan C” — fighting a U.K. general election as if it is a “de-facto referendum.” Sturgeon told the BBC Sunday that the plan is a “last resort” if a referendum cannot be held.

Under this plan, the SNP would consider winning more than 50 percent of the Scottish vote in a U.K.-wide general election to be a mandate for independence.

Sturgeon and her team are yet to flesh out how this outcome — an unlikely one that would require the SNP’s best-ever election result — would directly lead to independence.

In her only mention of this strategy in her speech, Sturgeon said that if the courts rule against her government it will be left with the choice of “putting our case for independence to the people in an election, or giving up on Scottish democracy.”

“I will never, ever give up on Scottish democracy,” she added.

Amid some speculation about her future after eight years at the top of Scottish politics, the first minister insisted she has no plans to step aside.

Sturgeon said: “For as long as I am first minister — by the way conference, I intend that to be for quite some time yet, my job, our job, is not done — as long as I am first minister, I will do everything in my power to build the better Scotland we all want to see.” Her aside generated the loudest cheer of the weekend from the SNP faithful.



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