Nicola Sturgeon yesterday told a Yes rally that Scotland must be given the right to decide the country’s future in a second independence vote next year
The First Minister, speaking in Glasgow, said it was time to send the “biggest, loudest, most resounding message” to Westminster in next month’s General Election.
The SNP’s leader has previously said she will formally request the power for Holyrood to stage a referendum from the Prime Minister before Christmas. A Section 30 order, which the Boris Johnson has so far refused to consider, would mean a legally binding ballot could be held.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We must come out in our numbers and vote in this election – vote to escape the chaos and misery and the division of Brexit and vote to put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands. That is the message that must ring out across our country.
“As I prepare to lead you to an independence referendum next year, my ask of you is this one. It is so wonderful to see all of you here today. This sight gladdens my heart.
“But over these next few weeks – I know the nights are drawing in, I know the weather is getting colder and wetter, I know minds are turning to the Christmas festivities – but all of us must make sure that over these next few weeks we persuade everyone we know – our family, our friends, our neighbours, our workmates – to come out on December 12 and send the biggest, loudest, most resounding message to Westminster.
“That it is time for Scotland to choose our own future, that it is time for Scotland to become an independent country.”
The First Minister was the headline speaker at the event in the city’s George Square, her first speech at an independence rally since 2014.
Organisers said 20,000 independence supporters attended the event.
She told them: “Friends, make no mistake, the General Election that we face now on December 12, is the most important election for Scotland in our lifetimes.
“The future of our country is on the line, and there is no doubt whatsoever that Scotland stands at a crossroads moment.
“Down one path is a future that will be dictated to us by the likes of Boris Johnson, a future where tax cuts for the wealthiest take priority over our people and our public services. That is not the Scotland we want.
“Down that road is a future where Scotland gets ripped out of our European family of nations against our will, a future where the UK turns in on itself, a future of a hostile environment for migrants”.
She told supporters that the alternative “is not a UK Labour government that can’t even make up its mind where it stands on the question of Brexit.”
She also challenged Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn to a face-to-face debate. ITV is to host a head-to-head debate between the Conservative and Labour leaders on November 19, with both the Lib Dems and SNP omitted.
The First Minister said: “Why are you so scared to have real debate in this election? My message and challenge is this – I’ll debate either of you, I’ll debate both of you, anytime, anyplace. Stop running scared and come and justify why Scotland shouldn’t be independent.”
Last week Labour refused to rule out granting a second Scottish independence referendum beyond 2021.
It emerged last week that Ms Sturgeon met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the Tories have already launched an advertising campaign claiming a “backdoor deal” means Mr Corbyn is in the SNP’s pocket and will cave in to her demands.
However, Mr Corbyn insists that he will not sanction an independence referendum in the first years of a Labour government and commentators have questioned Ms Sturgeon’s calls for another vote, sanctioned by Labour, given there could also be another Brexit poll next year.
But at a rally in Bristol yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn said he would not back Sturgeon’s demand for another vote if Labour won the election on December 12.
He said: “What I will say is that a Labour government will invest £70 billion of capital investment in Scotland, as well as more money for Scotland through revenue spending which will help in terms of health and education, in particular.
“And we want to see Scotland’s economy improve and the levels of poverty in Scotland, particularly in big cities, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, being reduced.
“It’s a Labour government that will do that. Scottish independence would mean a massive gap between what Scotland raises in taxation and what the Scottish people need at the present time.
“I think the much better option is a Labour government for the whole of the UK.”
Meanwhile, Conservative MSP Annie Wells, campaigning in Glasgow, said that the SNP should stick to their vow that an independence referendum should be a “once in a generation opportunity”.
She said: “While Nicola Sturgeon is banging on about indyref2, I’m out talking to people about the state of their local schools, the drug deaths crisis and violent crime taking over our streets, and the problems at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“The SNP took charge of Glasgow City Council and things are even worse than under Labour.
“Instead of tackling the day-to-day things that Glaswegians care about, Nicola Sturgeon is headlining a nationalist rally. She is showing everyone that her priority is indyref2 above everything else.
“So this election is about stopping Nicola Sturgeon from dividing our communities all over again, and only a vote for the Scottish Conservatives will do that.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie also rejected calls for a second independence referendum.
Campaigning in St Andrews, he said: “We’ve seen the chaos and uncertainty that Brexit has brought. Why on earth would the SNP want to start that all over again with independence?”