May accused of 'arrogant bluster' over Scottish independence

Angus Robertson, SNP deputy leader, insists Scotland will stage vote as Brexit takes place regardless of PM’s veto
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Angus Robertson, deputy SNP leader, address delegates at the SNP spring conference.



Theresa May has been accused by the Scottish National party deputy leader of “arrogant bluster” for trying to block a Scotland independence referendum.

In the opening address to the SNP’s spring conference, Angus Robertson insisted the Scottish government would stage the vote just as Brexit takes place regardless of the prime minister’s apparent veto.

“Let there be no doubt: Scotland will have its referendum and the people of this country will have their choice,” Robertson told a cheering audience.

“They will not be denied their say. Scotland’s referendum is going to happen, and no UK prime minister should dare to stand in the way of Scottish democracy.”
Robertson’s speech, which followed three days of tense brinkmanship between Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, and May over the referendum’s timing, was carefully calibrated to avoid pitching the SNP and wider independence movement into a partisan battle pitting nationalists against the Tories.

With about two-thirds of Scottish voters against an early referendum, and a large minority of pro-independence voters hostile towards the EU, Sturgeon must attract unaligned, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Tory voters to back independence in Europe.

Echoing earlier radio interviews by John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister, Robertson described the dispute as a conflict between the prime minster and the “cast iron mandate” of the Scottish parliament.

Sturgeon is expected to win a key vote in Holyrood next week on her demands for a referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 by a narrow margin. Her minority government will rely on six Scottish Green party votes to win the vote, but Sturgeon will rely heavily on that vote as proof her demands are legitimate and cannot be refused.

Sturgeon’s aides were adamant she is not considering staging an unofficial or indicative referendum if May continued to resist giving Holyrood the legal powers to stage an official referendum.

Their strategy will be to attack the Tories’ mandate in Scotland, where it has just one MP. While it is Holyrood’s second largest party, with 31 of its 129 seats, the Scottish Tories won only 22% of the constituency vote in May 2016.

Ducking questions on which currency an independent Scotland would use and the significance of dwindling oil revenues, Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland on Friday that this issue would “crystallise” next week. It would leave “a democratic Scottish parliament by a majority calling for a timetable [and] David Mundell, as the sole Conservative MP in Scotland, and the prime minister who say no”.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, who heads the second largest party at Holyrood, insisted on Thursday that Holyrood was split. Unlike its unanimous vote to support the 2014 independence referendum, this time three parties at Holyrood objected to a new referendum.

Robertson countered it would be a “democratic outrage” for May to ignore Holyrood’s vote.

Addressing May, he said: “Your mask has slipped and the real face of Tory arrogance is there for all to see.

“What your arrogant bluster doesn’t conceal is that you have no intention whatsoever of reaching a deal with the Scottish government. You intend to break your promise to Scotland and you think you can get away with it.

“Well let me absolutely clear to Theresa May: you are not going to get away with it.”
Two other Scottish cabinet ministers used conference speeches to attack May. Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish external affairs secretary, said the prime minister was “determined to diminish the Scottish parliament”.

To cheers from delegates, Humza Yousaf, the transport minister, said: “If Theresa May thinks we will shut up and eat our cereal she should think again.”


guardian

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