SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon does not believe Boris Johnson will prevent a second Scottish independence referendum if the SNP wins a majority at next month’s Holyrood election.
The Prime Minister has so far rejected calls to give the go-ahead for a referendum, but Sturgeon said she believes UK Government discussions have moved on.
She told the Guardian: “If people in Scotland vote for a party saying, ‘when the time is right, there should be an independence referendum’, you cannot stand in the way of that, and I don’t think that is what will happen.”
Sturgeon said she believes discussions within the UK government had “moved away from ‘we can stop a referendum’ to ‘when would it happen, and on what basis would it happen?’”
She said: “People will always challenge that because of what the supposed position of the UK government is,” adding that she is “pretty confident” the SNP’s plan B of a referendum Bill at Scottish Parliament will not be needed.
In an 11-point plan earlier this year, her party said it would announce a referendum through legislation at Holyrood if there is an SNP majority but the UK Government refused to grant a Section 30 order, effectively daring Westminster to challenge it in the courts.
Sturgeon said her “strong preference and intention” is to hold another referendum in the first half of the parliament, up to 2023, but she will be “guided by the realities of Covid”.
She also addressed comments from her predecessor as first minister, Alex Salmond, in his role as leader of the Alba Party, that peaceful protests and legal action could also be used in pursuit of independence, saying they could put off potential independence supporters.
Sturgeon told the newspaper: “If you’re somebody that voted no in 2014 and … because of Brexit or other things, are now open-minded to independence – and I know an awful lot of these people – and you hear somebody say they think they can bulldoze their way to independence in spite of public opinion, I would think, ‘maybe I don’t want to engage in this any more’.”