Nicola Sturgeon ‘hoarding’ UK funding claims Miklinski
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The party’s National Executive Committee has committed £600,000 towards “preparations” for another independence referendum following a meeting this weekend. A further £1.5m has also been allocated to launch the Nationalists largest-ever Holyrood election campaign, which will include the party’s central message for independence, as Scotland’s ruling party attempts to win another five years in charge.
In its election campaign the SNP will attempt to highlight the strengths of being an independent country and how Scotland can prosper outside of the Union.
Yesterday’s meeting minutes, seen by Express.co.uk, also reveal a campaign rally will be held online in late March which will set out the party’s “message for the election in May, and will be the largest online event of its kind”.
The minutes added: “The 2021 budget was agreed, including £1.5m Holyrood election spend, £600k this financial year for referendum preparations, plus new Headquarters staff to support local government and the complaints processes overseen by the National Secretary.”
But Scottish politicians today expressed outrage at the prospect of a second referendum dominating the Holyrood elections instead of COVID-19 recovery, which is set to take place on May 6.
It comes despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in September 2020 saying the Scottish Government “paused work” on preparations for a ballot as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
In her programme for Government in September 2020, Ms Sturgeon said a draft bill would be published setting out the timescale and potential question for a new referendum in due course.
The Programme for Government stated: “If there is majority support for the bill in the Scottish Parliament in the next term, there could then be no moral or democratic justification whatsoever for any UK Government to ignore the rights of the people of Scotland to choose our own future.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross branded the move “reckless”, and told Express.co.uk: “This clearly shows where the SNP’s priorities lie.
“Setting aside this vast sum of money to help preparations for another referendum shows their commitment to return Scotland to the politics of division all over again.”
Jackie Baillie MSP, interim leader of Scottish Labour, said: “The people of Scotland are clear that they want their Government to prioritise the recovery from Covid-19 and the economic crisis it has caused, rather than another independence referendum.
“It is astounding, but not surprising, that with our Test and Protect system still not fit for purpose, with workers and businesses fearing for their future and struggling to access support, and with a massive increase in waiting times for NHS treatment, that the SNP is focusing on constitutional upheaval – and not the recovery Scotland so badly needs.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, added: “This shows the out of touch priorities of the SNP.
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“People are losing their lives and livelihoods, yet the nationalists want to prioritise a second referendum on leaving the UK that would divide the people of Scotland.”
Research by Savanta ComRes earlier this month found 47 percent of people would vote Yes if there is a second referendum, with 42 percent opposed to independence and 10 percent undecided.
But when those who do not know how they would vote are excluded, the poll puts support for leaving the UK at 53 percent – down 4 percent on January – with 47 percent backing the Union.
Boris Johnson has repeated insisted the 2014 referendum, in which Scotland voted to remain in the UK, was a one in a generation vote and has refused the SNP’s calls for a second try.
However, Mr Johnson was recently dealt a major blow as his main adviser on battling Scottish independence departed less than a fortnight after being made the head of Downing Street’s Union unit.
Oliver Lewis, a veteran of the Vote Leave Brexit campaign, left his position within No 10 on Friday, Downing Street officials said.
Mr Lewis replaced former Scottish MP Luke Graham as head of the unit earlier in February.
Following Mr Lewis’s departure, SNP’s Westminster deputy leader Kirsten Oswald claimed Mr Johnson’s “taxpayer-funded anti-independence campaign is completely falling apart”.
On the NEC, an SNP spokesperson said: “Douglas Ross is a shameless hypocrite.
“We’ll get on with the day job of leading Scotland’s recovery while they blow millions of public cash on pro-Union propaganda.
“The issue at the election in May will be this: who has the right to decide what sort of country we should be after the pandemic – the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson?”
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