Nicola Sturgeon: Independence is "the natural extension" of devolution

Speaking in Edinburgh on the 20th anniversary of the referendum on a Scottish Parliament, the first minister said devolution flows from the same intellectual current as the independence movement

NICOLA STURGEON, speaking in Edinburgh on the anniversary of the 1997 referendum on the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament, said that “at its heart, independence is the natural extension” of the demands which led to devolution.

Acknowledging Scotland’s divide on constitutional politics and reaffirming her position on Brexit, Sturgeon said: “Everyone knows … that I believe that becoming an independent country would be the best future for Scotland and that, as I said in June at the end of the Brexit process, I believe that the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country.

“At its heart, independence is the natural extension of the principle that decisions should be taken in Scotland and that doing so improves the lives of people who live here.” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“Indeed, at its heart, independence is the natural extension of the principle that decisions should be taken in Scotland and that doing so improves the lives of people who live here.”

Drawing a connection between the history she stood to commemorate and the political battles ahead between the Scottish and UK Government, Sturgeon said: “The devolution settlement – the Scotland Act that established our parliament – is based on the quite genius principle, when you look back and consider it, that everything is automatically devolved unless it is explicitly reserved.

“The EU Withdrawal Bill turns that principle absolutely on its head. Westminster will decide what areas of already devolved policy will actually remain devolved in the future.

“So on the very day that we should be celebrating devolution, we are also being called upon to defend it.”

“The devolution settlement is based on the quite genius principle that everything is automatically devolved unless it is explicitly reserved. The EU Withdrawal Bill turns that principle absolutely on its head.” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

In making the case for this defence, the first minister reached out to political opponents and recalled the collaboration which made victory for devolution possible in 1997, when the SNP, Scottish Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens campaigned for a ‘Yes’ vote against a Tory-dominated ‘No’ campaign.

Sturgeon said: “Even though there is still disagreement – passionate disagreement – about the final destination of our constitutional journey, we should nevertheless seek a new spirit of consensus to match that achieved in 1997.

“Twenty years ago that disagreement about the final destination did not stop us from working together to make progress where we could, and it shouldn’t stop us today either.” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“With Brexit now threatening the underpinning principle of devolution and many of our vital national interests, it is essential that we do so.

“Twenty years ago that disagreement about the final destination did not stop us from working together to make progress where we could, and it shouldn’t stop us today either.”

In the coming months, the Scottish Government will publish a series of policy papers arguing for the extension of the Scottish Parliament’s powers on areas including trade, employment and immigration.

“The more powers our parliament has, the more we can, collectively, do for Scotland,” Sturgeon said.

Responding to the speech, interim Scottish Labour leader Alex Rowley appeared to agree with Sturgeon’s entreaty to defend against a Westminster power grab, but repeated calls by opposition leaders for the Scottish Government to do more with the powers the Scottish Parliament already possesses.

“Labour is the party of devolution, and we will not allow the Tories to use Brexit as a Westminster power grab.” Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley

“Labour is the party of devolution, and we will not allow the Tories to use Brexit as a Westminster power grab,” Rowley said.

“We will stand up against Theresa May’s plan to centralise power in the hands of Tory ministers. That is why Labour MPs from across Britain will tonight be voting against the Repeal Bill.

“Scottish Labour adopted federalism as our party policy in February, and will continue to look at the devolution of powers around employment, immigration and international trade.

“Twenty years on from Scotland voting for a Scottish Parliament with tax raising powers the people of Scotland quite reasonably in my view, expect our government in Edinburgh to use the powers of our parliament. The priority for Nicola Sturgeon and her government must be using the powers to address the big challenges in our NHS, in education, in the economy and in our communities."

Also responding to the speech, Scottish Greens co-convenor and MSP Patrick Harvie echoed sentiments from both Sturgeon and Rowley while making a case for the Green presence in Holyrood, saying: “It's now unthinkable that Scotland wouldn't have its own parliament and it’s clear that in the last 20 years Scotland is continuing to make positive advances in self-government.

“However, the campaign for more powers must come with a renewed determination from any governing party to use them.

“The campaign for more powers must come with a renewed determination from any governing party to use them.” Scottish Greens co-convenor Patrick Harvie

“The anniversary coincides with a critical moment as the UK prepares to fundamentally undermine the devolution settlement via a power grab Repeal Bill and it remains unclear what the consequences will be if Westminster kills off the principle of legislative consent and unilaterally introduces huge new constraints on the Scottish Parliament.

“It would have been inconceivable in 1997 that our parliament would have signalled the end of petrol and diesel cars in just two decades. It’s also unthinkable that these milestones, including the exploration of a universal basic income, would have happened so soon without electing a strong Green contingent.”

Picture courtesy of allstairas

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