Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that a vote for the Scottish National party in next month’s general election does not amount to a vote for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
The SNP leader was speaking as she visited party activists in Aberdeen city centre in advance of Wednesday night’s second televised Scottish leaders’ debate. In a debate on STV on Tuesday, Sturgeon appeared to suggest that the party would hold another referendum if it wins the 2016 Holyrood elections on a manifesto promising a second vote.
Sturgeon was asked by broadcasters if she regretted mentioning the possibility of a second independence referendum during the debate, but she said she did not.
Repeating her line that the timing of another referendum would be decided by public opinion, she said: “It’s ultimately up to the Scottish people. That’s the fundamental democratic point. I can’t impose it on the people against their will.”
Sturgeon was booed by some parts of the audience when she said, when pressed by the host Bernard Ponsonby: “If the people of Scotland don’t vote for a party with a commitment in a manifesto to a referendum, there won’t be another referendum, that’s the point I’m making. The people are in charge, not politicians.”
Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain within the UK last September, following a hard-fought campaign that saw support for independence reach an all-time high.
In Aberdeen, she again refused to rule out including a referendum in the SNP’s manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood elections, saying: “It’s not reasonable to ask me to write the 2016 manifesto when we haven’t even written the 2015 one.”
But she insisted: “A vote for the SNP is not a vote for another referendum. It is a vote to have Scotland’s voice heard at Westminster.”
The debate on Wednesday, hosted by the BBC, is due to include the Scottish Green party leader, Patrick Harvie, Ukip’s David Coburn, the Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy, the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie, for the Liberal Democrats.
Sturgeon was heckled by a group of Ukip supporters chanting “Ukip OK”, but they were swiftly drowned out by the boos of the assembled throng of SNP activists at Tuesday’s debate.
She said that the back-to-back debates were a chance to put the case for Scotland’s voice being heard more loudly at Westminster. Sturgeon said: “I want to see an alternative to austerity, I want to see money being spent on the future of our children, not on new nuclear weapons. I want more action to grow our economy and create jobs. I want to see a higher minimum wage. These are the kind of policies that a big SNP team in Westminster can help to bring about.”
Murphy was also campaigning in Aberdeen ahead of the debate, highlighting the threat of further cuts to disability benefits.
This article was written by Libby Brooks, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 8th April 2015 18.27 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010