Nicola Sturgeon plot: SNP could hold UK RANSOM to force through referendum

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The SNP has been dominant in recent opinion polls, with YouGov’s most recent survey for The Times indicating Mrs Sturgeon’s party currently enjoys 57 percent support north of the border. Additionally, the survey – based on interviews with 1,142 Scottish adults aged 16 and over – indicated 53 percent backed the idea of independence, with 47 percent saying no – the largest majority in favour YouGov has ever recorded.

Sir John, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde, told Express.co.uk a referendum north of the border was now looking significantly more likely.

He suggested there was a significant risk in the UK Government refusing to accept the need for a referendum, especially if the SNP wins an overall majority in next year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections.

He explained: “The nightmare scenario is if indeed they do say no, one possibility is the SNP will go back to what used to be their position, which is if we win a majority of seats, either in Westminster or a Holyrood election, that is a mandate for independence, end of story.

There is a non-trivial risk that in 2024 you will end up in a hung Parliament in which the SNP has the balance of power

Sir John Curtice

“What you have to bear in mind is that if the SNP continues to dominate Scotland’s representation in Westminster, there is a non-trivial risk that in 2024 you will end up in a hung Parliament in which the SNP has the balance of power.

“And in those circumstances, if you have denied them a referendum and they have campaigned and they have got a majority of seats in Scotland saying this is a vote for independence, you will find yourself in an even worse pickle, because basically the SNP will just gum up the way the UK Government works.

“They will deny both Tories and Labour the opportunity to form a stable administration unless and until they accept at least probably a referendum.

“The point is you do have to think ahead, and my view is that those on the unionist side have to make the case for the union and not rely on procedural arguments.”

People’s views about whether there should be a referendum were a function of their views about independence, Sir John said.

He explained: “If you are a yes voter you say there should be a referendum, and if you are a no voter you say there should not be.

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“The reason why now we do in the opinion polls begin to have majorities in favour of a referendum is because you have got a majority yes.

“So it is not good arguing about the process – there is not a whole body of people out there who will vote for the Conservatives next May because they believe in independence but think they should be honourable about these things. This is pie in the sky.”

Sir John added: “The crucial thing is what happens in the Holyrood election in May of next year but at the moment the SNP is above 50 percent in the opinion polls.

“So it doesn’t matter what the electoral system is, you are going to get an overall majority and it could be a large one.

“That said, it is still a long way off and if the Scottish Government’s currently high ratings on coronavirus fall away, then maybe it will go back down.

“On the other hand, the other thing that is fuelling it is Brexit, and that’s not going away.

“The truth is if you do have an SNP majority – and by that I mean an SNP majority, not an SNP-Green one – it will put the UK Government in a very, very difficult position.

“There is time for the UK Government to argue between now and may that the SNP said there was not going to be a referendum in a generation and there should not be one.

“But the difficulty it seems to me is that while you can argue that your opponents should keep their promises the electorate cannot be bound by the promises made by politicians six years ago.

“The electorate are allowed to be fickle, and if the electorate can change their minds, and can express that in the ballot box.”

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