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Nicola Sturgeon issues warning over second independence referendum

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon signs copies of the party manifesto at the launch in Edinburgh (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon signs copies of the party manifesto at the launch in Edinburgh (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

She accepted it would be “wrong” for a second ballot to be held without evidence most people back independence.

But the First Minister and SNP leader told nationalists “if we do succeed – when we do succeed” in achieving that, “no politician will have the right to stand in the way”.

Ms Sturgeon spoke out as she launched her party’s manifesto for the upcoming Holyrood elections – describing the policy package as her “job application” to be first minister.

While polls show the SNP is on course to win a second majority in the Scottish Parliament – which would be the party’s third consecutive term in government – she told activists: “I take nothing for granted – and neither should you.”

The May 5 election is the first time Ms Sturgeon has put herself forward to be returned as first minister by the Scottish public.

The manifesto, which she unveiled in front of some 1,400 party members in Edinburgh, contains pledges to increase day-to-day spending on the NHS by £500 million more than inflation over the next five years, and to spend nearly £20 billion on infrastructure.

Parents of all newborns will be offered a “baby box” full of essentials – a scheme pioneered in Finland – while the SNP vows to double free childcare for three and four-year-olds, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds.

An additional £750 million would be spent over the next five years closing the gap between rich and poor pupils in Scotland in what Ms Sturgeon dubbed a “manifesto for the next generation”.

The party also pledged legislation to cut emissions by 50% and to introduce a Warm Homes Act to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency if it is re-elected.

However, the pledge to recruit and retain 1,000 additional police officers, which the SNP first made in 2007, was abandoned, with the manifesto instead promising to ensure Police Scotland has the “right mix and numbers of staff for the future”.

The manifesto did not contain a specific commitment to hold a referendum on independence during the next parliament if the SNP wins the election.

Ms Sturgeon told the audience: “There is not a single day goes by that I am not asked if there will be a second independence referendum in the next parliament.

“My answer to that, in one sense, is very simple – I would like that, very much.”

The SNP leader added: “If there is to be a second referendum – whether that is in the next parliament or in a future parliament – we first have to earn the right to propose it.

“Setting the date for a referendum before a majority of the Scottish people have been persuaded that independence – and therefore another referendum – is the best future for our country is the wrong way round.”

Ms Sturgeon has already announced the SNP will mount a fresh campaign to increase support for independence this summer and said: “If we don’t succeed, we will have no right to propose another referendum.

“If we do succeed – when we do succeed – if in the future there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – then no politician will have the right to stand in the way, because the future of our country must always be in the hands of the people of our country.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson branded the First Minister’s words “a recipe for more uncertainty which will damage jobs and weaken the economy”.

The Tory said: “Nicola Sturgeon had the chance today to set a course that leaves the division of the referendum behind us.

“Instead she has made it clear she wants to put Scotland through five more years of rancour over the constitution.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Nicola Sturgeon confirmed today that if they are re-elected the SNP will not have a mandate for a second referendum.

“The woolly words in today’s SNP manifesto do not seek the explicit support for a second referendum from the people of Scotland.

“It is not credible to say that opinion polls would give a mandate for holding a constitutional referendum.”

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The truth is that for the SNP, the timing of any second referendum is down to the ONS – the opinion of Nicola Sturgeon.

“She will spend the next five years poring over the runes on independence when what Scotland deserves is five years for public services.

“We need five years for education. For mental health services, for the environment and civil liberties. Scotland can’t wait for the SNP any longer. We need a government that will get to grips with the challenges we face as a country right now, not obsess over independence.”


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