Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘dishonest independence pledge’ thrown out by Nigel Farage

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Ms Sturgeon and Mr Farage are set to go head-to-head in May’s Holyrood elections, as the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and Reform UK chief lay out their arguments for and against Scotland staying in the UK. Mr Farage’s Reform UK delivered its election pledges after announcing ex-Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne as its leader north of the border this month. Mr Farage has often clashed with Ms Sturgeon, as the SNP leader has continually demanded another vote on Scottish independence following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Her requests have been ruled out by Parliament, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting Scotland’s referendum in 2014 was a “once-in-a-generation vote”, which saw the No camp succeed.

While campaigning as part of the Brexit Party, Reform UK’s predecessor, Mr Farage accused Ms Sturgeon of making a vow to Scottish people that would undermine her country’s sovereignty.

The former Ukip leader insisted “politics is full of deception”, particularly Ms Sturgeon’s claim that “separating the UK but staying part of the EU means Scotland will be independent”.

He told a rally in Edinburgh two years ago how 30 percent of SNP voters “didn’t want to be part of the EU”, adding: “It is, I think, the most dishonest political discourse I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world.

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“You cannot be independent if you’re governed from the European Court of Justice. You cannot be independent if you’re in the EU’s customs union and single market.

“You cannot be independent if you’re governed by Monsieur Barnier and Mr Juncker.”

At the time, Jean-Claude Juncker had recently stood down as President of the European Commission, while Michel Barnier was the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit.

The independence debate has seen Ms Sturgeon and Mr Farage routinely clash, and in the run-up to the 2019 general election, the Scottish First Minister claimed the then-Brexit Party leader was “putting Scotland’s future at risk”.

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Her comments came as Mr Farage announced that in the vote he would not be standing Brexit Party candidates in Conservative-held seats, to help Mr Johnson’s party.

Mr Farage wanted the Conservatives to have the ability to roundly win the election, which they did, in order to secure Mr Johnson’s “get Brexit done” mandate.

Ms Sturgeon suggested that “any form of Brexit that is acceptable for Mr Farage is going to be deeply damaging for Scotland”, adding: “It really does underline the view that if you don’t take Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands at this election, then the danger is our future is imposed upon us by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.”

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With Brexit now concluded, clamour for a second independence vote has gained momentum, with polls since 2020 showing Yes having a clear lead among the electorate.

Richard Tice, Chairman of Reform UK, reflected on his party’s chances of claiming seats in May’s Scottish election, demanding that the likes of Ms Sturgeon have an honest debate on the differences within the Union.

He argued Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland and Wales, should have more devolved powers, and that staying in the UK would protect the country.

He told the Risky Scientist YouTube channel: “If you don’t do it in an open rational way, we’re clearly heading towards a situation where at some point Scotland is going to secure another referendum and may well vote to leave the UK.

“My belief is that we need to have a different discussion and look at it in a slightly different way, and is there a win-win?

“I think there are… and I actually think people are up for a discussion.

“Let’s get through this pandemic, and build the confidence up again, I think these are constitutional issues that we need to talk about.”

But pollsters predict the SNP will continue its surge, despite losing the referendum vote to No’s 55 percent seven years ago.

Sir John Curtice, a leading expert on voting data, argued Mr Farage’s party would “divide the pro-Union vote”.

Earlier this month he told The National: “More Leave voters vote Tory than anything else, so the Tories are the ones which will be least happy.

“A third of SNP voters backed Leave, but with Reform UK running with the type of British nationalism that was typical of the Brexit Party and Ukip that doesn’t do well up here.

“But one suspects Tory Leave voters are somewhat more vulnerable [to the Reform Party] than SNP Leave voters. Meanwhile, of course, it fractures the Unionist vote a bit more.”

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