Nicola Sturgeon still hopes to reach an agreement with the UK Government over holding a new vote on Scottish independence but will tell the SNP conference that democracy “must – and will – prevail”.
Ms Sturgeon will address delegates virtually on Monday following suggestions by her predecessor, Alex Salmond, that too little progress has been made under her stewardship towards holding another referendum.
Mr Salmond, who addressed his own Alba Party conference on Sunday, insisted the pandemic and Brexit are “no excuse” to delay the process as he mocked Ms Sturgeon and the SNP leadership for their comments on the timeline for a new vote.
The former SNP leader claimed Westminster “now seem pretty relaxed about any political challenge from Scotland” as he reiterated previous comments comparing progress on independence to the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day.
Ms Sturgeon is expected to restate her commitment to holding another vote during her headlining speech and insist that democracy must prevail when it comes to respecting the will of the people of Scotland as expressed in May’s Holyrood election.
Democracy will prevail
She is expected to say: “My approach to government and to politics will be, as far as possible, co-operation not confrontation. The experience of the pandemic and the challenges we face as a result reinforces my view that this is the right approach.
“So it is in that spirit of co-operation that I hope the Scottish and UK governments can reach agreement – as we did in 2014 – to allow the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland to be heard and respected.
“But, this much is clear. Democracy must – and will – prevail.
“The United Kingdom is after all a voluntary union of nations. Until recently no-one seriously challenged the right of the people in Scotland to choose whether or not they wished to become independent.
“Frankly, it is not up to a Westminster government – which has just six MPs in Scotland – to decide our future without the consent of the people who live here.
“As an independent country, co-operation between Scotland and our friends across the rest of the UK will continue, but it will be on a better basis: Scotland will be an equal partner.”
The 2014 referendum was held with the consent of the UK Government after Westminster and Holyrood agreed the terms of the vote in the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement.
The Scottish Government published a ‘Road to Referendum’ blueprint earlier this year setting out how ministers will pass a referendum bill when the pandemic is over and then press on with a vote even if the prime minister refuses.