Nicola Sturgeon has set herself on a collision course with the UK government after calling for a transfer for powers to Holyrood to allow another referendum on Scottish independence.
Emboldened by last week’s election result, in which the Scottish National Party won 47 out of 59 Scottish seats, the first minister said there was now an “unarguable” mandate for a new vote.
She wants the UK government to agree to a so-called section 30 order, which would give the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a legally binding referendum in the second half of 2020.
Sturgeon also published a 38-page document entitled Scotland’s Right to Choose, which argues that there has been a “material change of circumstance” since the independence referendum of 2014, based on “the prospect of Scotland leaving the EU against its will and what EU exit has revealed about Scotland’s position within the UK”.
Despite being warned by Sturgeon that “Scotland can't be held against it’s own will”, Boris Johnson has said that he will not allow a second independence referendum under any circumstances while he remains in Number 10.
For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Start your trial subscription today
Yet “this is an issue that will not go away”, says David Smith in The Times.
Sturgeon has refused to rule out taking the prime minister to court if a new referendum is rejected, insisting that “all options” were still on the table.
She has also ruled out the possibility of holding an unofficial referendum similar to the one in Catalonia in 2017 so “in all likelihood will instead target a major victory at the Scottish elections in 2021 and serve up yet another mandate for Scottish independence to Westminster”, says The Scotsman.
Her stress on the “longer term” on Thursday “will reinforce widespread perceptions that she privately accepts a vote will not be held before Scottish parliamentary elections”, says the Financial Times.
Opinion polls have yet to show sustained majority support for independence, but they also suggest Brexit and continued government by Johnson, who is widely unpopular in Scotland, could prompt more voters to back separation from the UK.
“She clearly believes that if she keeps arguing that Scotland's democratic voice is being ignored she will build the case in voters' minds not just for another vote, but for independence itself,” says BBC Scotland Editor Sarah Smith.
“The longer she has to wait, the more convinced she is that she will win,” Smith adds. “She may be asking for a vote before the end of next year, but she is really playing a much longer game”.