LONDON (Reuters) – Backers of the union of the United Kingdom’s four nations should boycott any “wildcat” independence referendum for Scotland, the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party said on Monday, after the nation’s first minister pressed ahead with plans for a vote.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Sunday she was hoping a strong performance by her Scottish National Party (SNP) in an election in May would give her the mandate to hold a second referendum.
To get a legal referendum, any such vote must be approved by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has ruled out doing so. But the SNP has said it will “vigorously” oppose any legal challenge by the British government.
Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said anyone who believes in the union and in democracy should not “enter into this wildcat referendum that would … not be enforceable”.
Speaking to the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, he added: “I would absolutely boycott that … We were told the 2014 referendum was a gold standard of referendums, Nicola Sturgeon accepted that.”
Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom in 2014 but opinion polls suggest many in the nation now are in favour of independence, with some feeling the country was taken out of the European Union against its will by Johnson’s government.
Johnson’s Conservatives, much like the main opposition Labour Party, have a tough task to win back voters in Scotland, and the British leader is taking steps to try to counter the SNP’s message by boosting a special unit in Downing Street.
It is as yet unclear whether the May election will take place, with Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, struggling to control the spread of COVID-19 and moving fast to try to vaccinate as many people as possible.
But at the weekend, Sturgeon again said she wanted a referendum.
“I want to have a legal referendum, that’s what I’m going to seek the authority of the Scottish people for in May and if they give me that authority that’s what I intend to do,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday.
“Have a legal referendum to give people in Scotland the right to choose. That’s democracy. It’s not about what I want or about what Boris Johnson wants, it’s about what the people of Scotland want and the increasing evidence is that they want independence.”
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Andrew Heavens)