Sturgeon has independent bid backfire as Kent chaos ‘proves’ union must stand united

Nicola Sturgeon criticised over referendum hopes by Rennie

Willie Rennie said the current difficulties at the borders give a “glimpse” of the consequences of breaking up an economic partnership. But during First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon hit back, saying Mr Rennie is providing a “pantomime” of his own while she had put planning for Indyref2 on hold when the pandemic struck. Mr Rennie said: “We’ve had a glimpse in the last 48 hours at Dover of what happens when you break an economic partnership.

“Yet the First Minister wants to repeat the same mistakes by this time next year with her referendum.

“I know that Christmas is a time for sequels. But we have now seen what Brexit One is like, yet the First Minister still wants Brexit Two – the break-up of another economic union.

“Why does the First Minister want another break-up by next Christmas?

“At the weekend the First Minister said it would be unconscionable to carry on with Brexit in the middle of a global pandemic, oblivious to the irony that she plans to hold an independence referendum in the middle of a pandemic.”

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Ms Sturgeon responded: “The only reason, right now, we are faced with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit in Scotland is because we are not independent and it has been foisted upon us against our will.

“Independence is not the same as Brexit, independence would see Scotland joining other independent countries in the European Union, working together where we need to – including on matters like Covid and charting our own future.

“I’ve worked out what Willie Rennie is up to today, he’s realised that people are really missing pantomimes so he’s decided to provide one all of his own.”

She went on to accuse the Lib Dems of becoming a pro-Brexit party, and added: “As we start to recover from this pandemic, as all of us across the world start to ask ourselves what kind of countries, what kind of societies, do we want to live in.

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“I want the people of Scotland to be in charge of answering that question, not the likes of Boris Johnson.”

It comes as Labour will argue “passionately” against holding a second Scottish independence referendum, UK party leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

Ms Sturgeon has already said she wants to hold another vote on the future of the UK “early” in the next Holyrood term, Sir Keir insisted that no responsible Prime Minister would give the go-ahead for such a ballot.

With ongoing uncertainty about the impact of the coronavirus crisis and Brexit, he said holding a second Scottish referendum would be “entirely the wrong priority”, dismissing Ms Sturgeon’s calls for another ballot as “misguided”.

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The UK Labour leader said he was “determined to preserve and to renew the United Kingdom”.

He promised under Labour there would be a “radical economic and political devolution across the United Kingdom” – holding this out as an alternative to the “separatism” of the SNP and the “cavalier and chaotic approach” of the Conservatives.

Giving a virtual speech, he said that the Covid-19 pandemic had put “rocket boosters” under the case for renewed decentralisation of power from Westminster.

He announced the formation of a constitutional commission – advised by former prime minister Gordon Brown – to consider how power could further be shared out across the United Kingdom.

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