Independence Referendum

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th December 2021.

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Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what preparations it is making for holding an independence referendum in the first half of the current parliamentary session. (S6O-00540)

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

On 7 September 2021, the First Minister announced, as part of the programme for government, that the Scottish Government will work to ensure that a legitimate and constitutional referendum can be held within the current parliamentary session and, if the Covid crisis is over, within the first half of the session.

Since the announcement in the PFG, work has begun to scope what will be required to take that commitment forward and to provide the people of Scotland with the information that they will need in order that they can make an informed choice about Scotland’s future.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Although independence supporters understand the need to wait until we are clear of Covid, the chaos and ineptitude of the United Kingdom’s shambolic Government, which is clearly determined to undermine the existing devolved settlement, have increased the urgency of Scotland’s need to re-emerge as an independent, sovereign state that is equal among nations. Will the cabinet secretary commit to making a statement to Parliament, as soon as we are through the pandemic, on the road map to an independence referendum and beyond?

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

I would be more than happy to make a statement to Parliament on the matter. The case for independence is a strong one, and this Government will present it openly, frankly and with confidence and ambition. An independent Scotland would have the power to make different choices, including about how we manage public health challenges with different budgetary options, and it could make the choices that are best suited to Scotland’s interests.

The Scottish Government has a clear mandate to hold a referendum, and it is the people of Scotland who will have the right to determine the future of Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Donald Cameron, who is joining us remotely, has a supplementary.

Photo of Donald Cameron Donald Cameron Conservative

Given the serious concerns around the omicron variant, does the cabinet secretary agree that the very last thing that we should be doing today is discussing a second independence referendum? Does he further agree that all available financial resources that are currently earmarked for referendum planning should be immediately reprioritised and used in our collective effort against Covid?

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

No, I do not agree with the Conservative front-bench spokesman. As is so often the case, together with his colleagues, he ignores the result of the Scottish Parliament election. The people of Scotland elected a Scottish National Party-led Government, and it was elected with a mandate to hold a referendum.

In addition to the work that we are clearly doing on battling the Covid pandemic—our number 1 priority—we have the full panoply of Government work that we need to pursue. Part of that is making the preparations for the referendum that will take place when the time is right and the Covid pandemic has passed.

Photo of Karen Adam Karen Adam Scottish National Party

When I stood for election in May this year, it was on a manifesto commitment to hold an independence referendum. I was elected by the people of Banffshire and Buchan Coast, who gave me that mandate. People want that choice presented to them.

People in the north-east have been putting money into the UK coffers for a long time, and they have now been hammered by the UK Government’s damaging Brexit and its mediocre, drop-in-the-ocean investment, which does not come close to what they have paid in for decades.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the people of the north-east are entitled to choose who decides their future, particularly given the circumstances around a fair and just transition?

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

Yes, I agree with my colleague. The member is entirely correct: the people of the north-east of Scotland and Scotland as a whole have a right to exercise a choice about independence.

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting and facilitating a just transition. That is demonstrated by the just transition fund for the north-east and Moray: a 10-year, £500 million scheme that was announced earlier this year. We asked the UK Government to match that ambition, and to date it has not.

In October, the UK Government also failed to award the green light to the cluster led by the Acorn project at St Fergus. That is extremely disappointing for the north-east.

Currently, the Scottish Government does not hold all the necessary legislative and regulatory levers to support the cluster, as they were retained by the UK Government. That decision jeopardises the opportunities to deliver a just transition in our energy sector and for Scotland to achieve our ambitions. It must be up to the people of Scotland to decide how Scotland is governed.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Question 2 was not lodged. Question 3 is from Rhoda Grant, who is joining us remotely.

Ms Grant, could you please ask your question again? We did not hear it. Thank you.