Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Sturgeon says legal challenge to referendum would be ‘completely outrageous’

Sunday shows round-up: Sturgeon says legal challenge to referendum would be ‘completely outrageous’
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The results from the ‘Super Thursday’ elections are now in, and they are raising existential questions, both for the Labour party and for the United Kingdom. The SNP re-established their dominant position across Scotland, hoovering up most of the constituency seats, but falling just short of an overall majority once the ‘list’ seats were taken into account. Nicola Sturgeon has already announced her plans to introduce another independence referendum in a speech yesterday. On the Andrew Marr Show, she responded to the suggestion that her plans could be bought before the Supreme Court, either by the government, or another challenger:

NS: I think it would be absurd and completely outrageous… if it ever got anywhere close to that point… For this to end up in court, which is not something I ever want to see, it would mean that a Conservative government had refused to respect the democratic wishes of the Scottish people.

Independence legislation could be underway by spring 2022

Sturgeon confirmed that it was possible that, all going well in the fight against the coronavirus, the referendum legislation could be brought before the Scottish Parliament early next year:

AM: The spring of next year… Is that the point at which you bring [in] independence legislation?

NS: We still have significant challenges ahead… [but] I wouldn’t rule that out.

Michael Gove - UK government would not take Scottish government to court over referendum

The Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, to whom the Prime Minister has gifted the unenviable task of keeping the union together, was handling the government’s media rounds this morning. Gove told Andrew Marr that the government was not going to initiate legal proceedings to stop such a move from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon:

AM: Will you take her to court to stop it?

MG: No… The priority at the moment is not court cases, it’s not independence legislation – it is recovery from the pandemic… We’re not going near there.

Scotland can legally leave the UK

Gove also affirmed that Scotland did have the right to leave the UK via a referendum that was given the official sanction from Westminster, via a Section 30 order:

AM: Is Scotland allowed to leave the UK?

MG: Of course it is… through a legal referendum which would allow people to make that choice.

Second referendum ‘not an issue for the moment’

However, Sophy Ridge challenged Gove as to whether the government would consent to granting such a referendum over the course of the next few years. Gove did not give an explicit ‘no’, but pointed to the SNP’s lack of majority and the lasting impact of the pandemic as reasons to leave the issue for now:

MG: It’s not an issue for the moment… It is absolutely important that we concentrate now on the issue in front of us. The SNP did not get a majority in this election as they did in 2011… And also, critically, we had a campaign in which all of the party leaders acknowledged that the single most important thing was dealing with the pandemic.

‘Intimate contact’ restrictions will be relaxed very soon

On a lighter note, Gove signalled that the pandemic roadmap was progressing as planned, with restrictions on course to ease again from the 17th of May:

MG: All being well, the Prime Minister will confirm tomorrow that there will be a relaxation… It will be the case that… people [will be able to] meet indoors… Intimate contact between friends and family is something that we want to see restored.

Ian Murray – North East results were ‘a disaster’

Ridge spoke to Labour’s Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray. Murray confessed that the party’s performance across much of their traditional heartland was well below even their pessimistic predictions, including the symbolic loss of the Hartlepool by-election, where the Conservatives’ last victory was in 1959:

IM: Of course it’s a disaster in Sunderland and Hartlepool. No one is taking away from how bad that is… We’ve got a long way back to go… We’ve got a lot of listening to do.

John McDonnell – Keir Starmer is ‘scapegoating’ Angela Rayner

Marr spoke to the former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Keir Starmer is making preparations for a reshuffle of his top team after the local elections, and the first to be moved was Angela Rayner, who is no longer the party chair though stays in her deputy leader role. She may be given a further role in the reshuffle, but Rayner is thought to be deeply unhappy with the news. McDonnell attacked Starmer’s decision:

JM: When the leader of the party… says he takes full responsibility for the election result of Hartlepool in particular and then scapegoats Angie Rayner, I think many of us feel that was unfair… What public relations genius thought this was a good move…? I just think it’s a huge mistake.

Ian Murray – Rayner ‘has not been sacked’

Murray disputed that Rayner was being side-lined. However, his response that Rayner has been offered a ‘significant promotion’ left a little to be desired:

IM: Angela Rayner hasn’t been sacked as I understand it. Angela Rayner has been offered a significant promotion…

SR: Where’s she been moved to then?

IM: I don’t know the position… She’s been offered a significant promotion that means she spends more time talking to the country about policy… Angela Rayner has not been sacked.

Alex Salmond – Sturgeon should not wait to begin referendum process

And finally, not managing to secure a seat at the Holyrood elections has not stopped the former First Minister Alex Salmond from trying to apply pressure on his successor. He told The Spectator’s own Isabel Hardman on Times Radio that the planning for IndyRef2 should start right away:

AS: It took 18 months of negotiation with Westminister to set [the first referendum] up. I honestly don’t see the argument for not starting the negotiations… now, as opposed to waiting for some indeterminate period until after the pandemic… If you don’t start, you’ll never finish.