Nicola Sturgeon has urged supporters to “get on with the job” of securing a new independence referendum, as the Conservative and Labour parties harden their stance on granting Holyrood the powers to hold second vote, before a Scottish election campaign that promises to be dominated once again by the constitution.
At a rally in Glasgow on Saturday afternoon, the first minister and Scottish National party leader described the forthcoming general election as “the most important one Scotland has faced in our life times”.
She told thousands of cheering independence supporters to “make sure we persuade everyone we know to get out on 12 December and send the biggest, loudest, most resounding message to Westminster that it’s time for Scotland to choose its own future”.
Sturgeon intends to make holding a second independence referendum in 2020 central to her party’s campaign, and confirmed on Friday that she would demand the Westminster government transfer the powers to do so, regardless of the election result, by the end of the year.
But while she insisted that electoral success would create an “irresistible demand” for another vote, the Scottish secretary, Alister Jack, said in an interview with the Herald on Saturday that even if the SNP won a majority of Scottish seats they would “absolutely not have a mandate”, while Jeremy Corbyn on Friday dismissed a second referendum as “neither desirable or necessary”.
The SNP leader told the rally in Glasgow’s George Square, organised by Scotland’s only independence-supporting daily newspaper, the National: “We are gathered here for one simple purpose, to demand the right to choose a better future for our country.”
She promised that, if Scots voted in December “to escape the chaos, division and misery of Brexit”, then she would lead the country to an independence referendum next year.
The pedestrian square, described by Glasgow city council leader Susan Aitken earlier in the rally as “the spiritual home of our great yes movement”, was a sea of saltires on Saturday. The SNP logo was present but by no means pervasive, as most rally-goers waved the colourful Yes flags of the wider pro-independence movement.
Sturgeon had not addressed a gathering of the broader yes movement since 2014 and has been criticised by some activists for not supporting a series of well-attended marches held across Scotland over the summer.
The crowd, which organisers estimated reached 20,000 at its busiest, heard from speakers across the pro-independence movement, including members of Women for Independence and the Scottish Independence Convention, and Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie, who made an appeal for a “broad and inclusive” campaign.
A noisy counter-demonstration, cordoned by police on the opposite side of the square from the main rally stage, attempted to drown out speakers by blowing whistles and singing Rule Britannia.
Sitting on a bench in the middle of the square, wrapped in a saltire flag, 75-year-old Edna Matteson said that she believed support for independence and the fairness it could bring was growing across the country. “People have had enough. Children should not be living in poverty in this day and age. I was born at the end of world war two when we didn’t have one food bank, let alone thousands.”
Matteson, a former Labour voter who travelled from Greenock to attend Saturday’s rally, said she was aware that some “blamed” the older generation for voting no in 2014. “People assume we’re afraid of losing our pensions, but those were the fear tactics used in 2014. I want independence for the children who are growing up now.”
Amy Watt, a business management student from north Glasgow, said it was important to show the strength of support for independence. “The yes movement never went away, but we accepted the result in 2014. Now too much has changed. Look how diverse it is: young, old, all different colours and backgrounds.”
Watt added: “I’m happy that Nicola Sturgeon has kept away until now because this was never about the SNP or one political party, but now the SNP can be the vehicle to independence.”
Pointing to her teenage brother and his friends who had accompanied her to the event, she explained: “Everyone is politically engaged now because of Brexit.”
Source: The Guardian