Scotland politics

Sturgeon: Second referendum 'if and when Scotland wants it'

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Media captionFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon says other countries can learn from the "peaceful democratic process" of the independence referendum

Nicola Sturgeon has said "no politician has the right to stand in the way" of another independence referendum.

The SNP leader has faced calls to reveal whether she will propose another referendum in her manifesto for the Holyrood election next year.

Unionist opponents have voiced concerns that another SNP landslide could be seen as a mandate for a second vote.

Speaking in Hong Kong, Ms Sturgeon said a referendum would happen "if and when the Scottish people decide".

Prime Minister David Cameron refused to consider another independence referendum this week, and indicated that any decision by the Scottish government to unilaterally decide to hold a referendum would not be legitimate.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said on Monday that he did not believe "it is for the SNP themselves to determine whether the people of Scotland are in favour of having another referendum".

Ms Sturgeon was addressing the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club as part of her visit to the Chinese administrative region this week.

Political engagement

She said: "Two questions I get asked often these days - will there be another independence referendum and, if so, when?

"My answer is simple. It will be if and when the Scottish people decide and not a moment before.

"No politician can impose a referendum on Scotland, no matter how much some of us would like Scotland to be independent.

"And it's worth pointing out that the reverse is also true. If the Scottish people do vote in future to have another referendum, no politician has the right to stand in their way."

The first minister also told her Hong Kong audience that the way the Scottish independence referendum was conducted could offer up lessons on political engagement for the former British colony.

Ms Sturgeon stressed it would be wrong to draw direct parallels between developments in Scotland and the situation in Hong Kong, but said all protest should be "peaceful, democratic and positive".

'Big challenges'

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said Ms Sturgeon had promised less than a year ago that the referendum was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

He said: "People will rightly be concerned that the first minister appears ready to break that promise.

"Scotland can't afford more years of division and arguments about the constitution.

"We have a GP crisis, a police service in chaos and thousands of kids leaving school without the qualifications they need to get on in life.

"All political parties need to focus on addressing the big challenges in Scotland's public services, not yet another argument about where power lies."

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said talk of a second referendum "shows contempt for the clearly expressed view of the Scottish people".

He added: "It is barely 10 months since we had the referendum vote. It was a comprehensive vote and that should have settled the issue.

"The SNP need to stop obsessing about independence, and start addressing the real problems in Scotland including poor educational attainment and a crisis in the NHS, which have been building up on their watch."

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