The Scottish Government is set to publish an independence referendum bill this week, in the dying days of the current parliamentary term, with a promise to hold another vote on independence once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.
The bill “is going to say that we will hold an independence referendum when the time is right to hold it, and that will be at the conclusion of the pandemic”.
“Nobody is suggesting anything else, and again that’s been misrepresented. And what it’s going to say is something incredibly normal, which is that people should have the right to decide their own future. That’s how the world works.”
Opposition politicians have previously criticised the SNP government for a perceived focus on independence matters during the coronavirus pandemic, but writing in The National on Sunday Mr Russell said it was not a binary choice to either hold a referendum or lead Scotland out of the covid crisis.
“There is no dichotomy between referendum and recovery. It isn’t referendum – OR – recovery but referendum – FOR – recovery” writes Russell.
SNP ministers have previously said there could be another independence referendum held during the early part of a new parliamentary term, and while the promise of staging one “at the conclusion of the pandemic” is a little more precise it is still a movable feast.
Some senior SNP politicians have been pushing Nicola Sturgeon to use May’s Holyrood elections as a mandate for a second indyref, and advocating a fast-track referendum, while the first minister herself has been careful not to commit to a specific timetable
“Sturgeon and her gang have lost the plot”
Scottish Conservatives critical of new bill
Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives have hit out at the SNP’s plan to introduce a referendum bill this week, calling it “tone-deaf.”
“Nicola Sturgeon’s government is mired in sleaze and out of ideas. Instead of focussing on Scotland’s post-pandemic recovery they continue to rule out staging another damaging referendum as early as this year” says shadow constitution secretary Dean Lockhart.
“Sturgeon and her gang have lost the plot. They have become so detached from reality that they’re disconnected from the priorities of hard-working Scots.”
The SNP’s obsession with a reckless referendum always comes first, even ahead of the task of rebuilding Scotland from Covid-19.
— Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) March 21, 2021