'Ambition and democracy' behind drive to hold Scottish independence referendum in 2021

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell has said “ambition and democracy” is behind the SNP’s push to potentially hold a second independence referendum in 2021.

Parts of the SNP are arguing a second independence referendum should be held next year.
Parts of the SNP are arguing a second independence referendum should be held next year.

Questioned on the issue by Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, Mr Russell said the Scottish Government was “solidly focused” on tackling Covid-19, but that independence, if secured in a referendum next year, would allow Scotland to “rebuild better”.

Speaking remotely during Portfolio Questions, Mr Fraser said: “We are, of course, in the middle of a health crisis, the biggest health crisis any of us have experienced in our lifetimes, something rapidly turning into an economic catastrophe.

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"The First Minister has made it clear that all her energy is focused on these vital issues. How could the Constitution Secretary possibly defend diverting the resources of government into another divisive referendum at a difficult time like this?”

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Mr Russell responded by accusing the Scottish Tory MSP of having “some brass neck” in comparing Brexit and a second Scottish Independence referendum.

He said: "Of course we are solidly focused on the pandemic, but we also must consider how we rebuild.

"Getting independence as soon as we can in order to rebuild and to rebuild better would be our priority.

"The very, very small number of people who will be engaged at some stage in putting together a proposed referendum bill would be miniscule compared to the estimate of 25,000 civil servants working on Brexit at a cost of over £220 billion.

"I do think, to be honest presiding officer, that you would need some brass neck to compare those two things.”

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