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Sturgeon: Independence is essential for tackling cost-of-living crisis

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to outline her plans to hold a second independence referendum (PA)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to outline her plans to hold a second independence referendum (PA)

Scottish independence is essential to resolving the cost-of-living crisis impacting thousands of households, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister will on Tuesday outline her plans for holding a second referendum on Scotland’s future in the UK to the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon has said she intends the vote to be held in October 2023.

However there are significant barriers in the way as the Westminster Government is unlikely to approve the plans.

A section 30 order, a clause in the Scotland Act which would grant a legal referendum, is required but the UK Government has repeatedly rejected requests for one.

Speaking ahead of her statement to MSPs, Ms Sturgeon said Westminster austerity policies have caused families to face soaring energy bills and food prices.

She said: “The cost-of-living crisis did not happen overnight.

“Years of benefit cuts, pay freezes and failure to tackle rising energy bills, these were deliberate political choices forced on Scotland by Westminster governments that we did not vote for, and have had a devastating effect on living standards.

“These decisions help explain why independent countries comparable to Scotland outperform the UK on a range of indicators, wealthier, more equal and with less poverty, and therefore more able to withstand cost-of-living pressures.”

Ms Sturgeon said a recent report by the Resolution Foundation, which found Brexit had damaged the UK’s competitiveness and will make Britons poorer in the coming decade, shows the “catastrophic consequences” of leaving the European Union.

Scottish independence march
Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a second independence referendum in October 2023 (Lesley Martin/PA)

She added: “It is clearer than ever that when it comes to tackling the cost-of-living crisis, Westminster is not the solution to the problem, Westminster is the problem.

“And that is why independence is essential to tackling the cost-of-living crisis.”

The First Minister acknowledged Scottish independence is “not a guarantee of success”, but will let the country make its own choices.

She added: “Where we already have some independence in areas like social security, we’ve used those powers to make far better, fairer decisions, with transformational policies like the Scottish Child Payment.

“With the full powers of independence, there is absolutely no reason why a country as resource-rich as Scotland cannot replicate the success of our neighbours.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he will “take no part” in the “pretend referendum”.

Speaking on BBC’s Sunday Show, he urged the Scottish Government to focus on the “real” issues such as the cost of living, NHS and education.

“It’s not the priority of people across Scotland when there are so many other pressing issues that the Government and politicians of all parties should be focused on,” he said.

Asked if his party will fight a referendum, he said there were “two very big ifs” as to whether the independence bill will pass through the Scottish Parliament – where there are a majority of pro-independence MSPs – and be given the green light in court.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, also urged Ms Sturgeon to use her existing powers to “tackle poverty”.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Now is not the time to be talking about another referendum. People across Scotland rightly want and expect to see both of their governments working together with a relentless focus on the issues that matter to them, their families and communities.

“That means tackling the cost of living, protecting our long-term energy security, leading the international response against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and growing our economy so that everyone has access to the opportunities, skills and jobs for the future.

“We are using all the tools at our disposal to bring inflation down and combat rising prices – we can build a stronger economy through independent monetary policy, responsible fiscal policy which doesn’t add to inflationary pressures, and by boosting our long-term productivity and growth.”