Sturgeon’s independence plans threatened as Keir Starmer vows to campaign against them

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Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier this month that a draft Bill setting out the proposed terms, timing and question for another independence vote would be introduced before May’s Holyrood election. But Sir Keir Starmer said Labour will campaign in Scotland ahead of the 2021 Scottish parliamentary elections on the basis the party does not want a second independence referendum. He argued the focus should be primarily on the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to Sky News, Sir Keir said: “I think another independence referendum will be divisive and that’s why the Labour Party will be campaigning into the May elections on the economy, rebuilding the economy, on ensuring our public services are in the right place and defeating coronavirus.

“I’m frustrated in a sense that in the middle of a pandemic we’ve got the SNP talking about independence, we’ve got the Tory party talking about Brexit when, in my view, they should be focusing on pulling together to defeat the virus.

“One of the things I think will take many, many people by surprise is that there hasn’t been a COBRA meeting for months.”

Asked whether there should be a second independence referendum if the SNP win a majority in May, he said: “The Labour Party will be campaigning into May on the basis that what we don’t want is another divisive referendum.”

It comes as fewer than a third of Scots believe an independence referendum should be a priority for the Scottish Government, according to a new poll.

It followed a series of polls suggesting a majority of Scots are now in favour of breaking with the Union.

But a new survey commissioned by the pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union found 63 percent do not think an independence referendum should be a priority for the Government.

Of the 1,008 Scots questioned by Survation, 28 percent said another independence vote should be a priority.

Asked to pick up to three of the most important issues currently facing Scotland, 58 percent said the COVID-19 response and public health, followed by 50 percent who chose the NHS and 41 percent who said social care, economy and jobs.

Constitutional affairs and independence was prioritised by 11 percent of people, ranking it 10th out of the 16 options, behind other issues such as housing, immigration, education and the environment – but ahead of crime and policing, family life and childcare, and transport.

Among SNP voters in the 2019 general election, 35 percent said a second independence referendum is not a priority, while 18 percent ranked constitutional affairs and independence as a top priority for Scotland.


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Looking ahead to next year’s Scottish Parliament election, 72 percent said the debate “should be primarily focused on the economy and public services ahead of other issues such as Scottish independence”.

Scotland in Union chief executive Pamela Nash said: “This poll shows that the SNP has the wrong priorities.

“Rather than obsessing about a divisive second independence referendum, most people in Scotland want their Government to focus on what really matters: our NHS, jobs and schools.

“When barely a quarter of people in Scotland believe another referendum is a priority, it’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to start listening. Even her own supporters are clear that she has her priorities skewed.

“We are stronger together as part of the UK, and as we recover from COVID-19 the Scottish Government has a duty to focus on bringing people together.”

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