Scottish independence: Struan Stevenson discusses open letter
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A Freedom of Information request has revealed that Scottish Government civil servants have undertaken no second independence case preparations since March 2020. This comes after the UK Government called on SNP Ministers to focus on the COVID-19 with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying “now is not the time” for another referendum.
The official response said no civil servants have worked on the case for independence since work was paused when the pandemic hit in 2020.
This is despite a draft referendum bill being published in March this year with Nicola Sturgeon pledging a vote by 2023.
However, no analysis or assessment of the timescale or argument has been officially set out by the Government, the request also admits.
The FOI request added: “As of July 3, 2021, no ministers or civil servants in the Scottish Government were working on updating the plan for an independent Scotland from 2014.
“The Scottish Government announced on March 18, 2020 that it had paused this work in order to focus on response to the Covid-19 crisis.”
It stressed on resuming the case for a second independence referendum: “Decisions on resuming this work will be a matter for Scottish Ministers to take in due cause”.
The news caused Alex Salmond’s Alba party to accuse the Scottish Government of dragging its heels over preparations for a second referendum.
Former SNP councillor Chris McEleny, now Alba’s general secretary, said: “In the run up to the 2014 Referendum a comprehensive white paper was put before the people of Scotland setting out the potential of an independent Scotland.
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“Scotland’s Future was released nearly a year before that referendum, and the work on it was well underway after Alex Salmond delivered the pro-independence majority in the Scots Parliament which secured the referendum.
“If Scotland’s recovery from coronavirus is to be in Scotland’s hands, then that requires the ground work to provide the people of Scotland a guide to what an independent Scotland would look like in the context of a post pandemic world.
“These are not the actions of a government that are pursuing Scotland’s independence as it should be, with democratic determination.
“It’s time for the Scottish government to stop avoiding campaigning for it in fear that Boris Johnson says no to their request to hold a referendum.”
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In response, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our priority has been and remains tackling the pandemic.
“When the public health crisis has passed, people in Scotland have the right to determine their own future through a referendum, as was voted for in the recent Scottish Parliament election.
“Work on this issue will resume when the time is right so that people in Scotland have the information they need to make an informed decision about their future.
“We need the full range of powers of an independent country to put in place the transformational recovery from the pandemic that will lead to a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”
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