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Nicola Sturgeon: David Cameron 'living on borrowed time'

media captionNicola Sturgeon warns Prime Minister David Cameron not to ignore the voice of Scotland.

Scotland's first minister has said that Prime Minister David Cameron is "living on borrowed time" as he seeks to prevent Scotland leaving the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon made the claim in a speech to mark the first anniversary of the independence referendum.

It came as Mr Cameron outlined plans to guarantee the permanence of the devolved Scottish Parliament.

Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain in the UK in the referendum on 18 September of last year.

'Momentous vote'

In a speech in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: "My message to David Cameron today is the same as it was when I met him just after the general election.

"What happens to support for independence in the months and years to come will depend as much on what you do as it will on what we do.

"And, right now, you are living on borrowed time.

"If you continue to ignore Scotland's voice, if you continue to disrespect the choice that people across this country made in May, more and more people will conclude that Westminster simply can't deliver for Scotland."

Mr Cameron said the result meant that "Scotland's majority" had spoken and that "more Scots voted to keep our kingdom united than have ever voted for any party in any election in Scottish history".

He added: "Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and I signed the Edinburgh Agreement which pledged we would all respect the outcome of last year's momentous vote.

"We all agreed - as do the Scottish public - that the independence referendum should be a 'once-in-a-generation' or a 'once-in-a-lifetime' event. So, now it is time to move on."


By Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor

Nicola Sturgeon is not short of advice on this referendum anniversary day. It comes from a disparate range of people; not all of whom wish to see her party thrive.

Among the rivals, David Cameron reckons she should now shelve any thought of a second referendum. Mr Cameron suggests that the restless nation of Scotland will be placated by the powers in the Scotland Bill, once those are enacted, implemented and absorbed.

In which regard, the prime minister has promised to rewrite a section of the bill to guarantee the permanence of the Scottish Parliament. Under the new wording, it would take a referendum of the Scottish people before Holyrood's writ was removed.

For the avoidance of doubt, Mr Cameron is not contemplating such a referendum. Nor is he suggesting that Holyrood might usefully quit the scene.

UK government sources insist this measure was suggested by others - including the Scottish government - and they have responded. Similarly, we now expect amendments to be advanced by the Scottish Secretary David Mundell in an effort to clarify new welfare powers and the like.

Will these amendments content the Nationalist critics of the bill?

One year on from the Scottish referendum

The UK government will propose two amendments to the Scotland Bill on more devolved powers in order to guarantee the permanence of the Scottish Parliament.

The first will change the wording to put beyond doubt that the Scottish Parliament is a permanent part of the UK's political constitution.

The second amendment will state that the Scottish Parliament can only be abolished with the agreement of the Scottish people in a referendum.

Ms Sturgeon's pro-independence SNP has seen a huge surge in membership since last year's referendum.

The party also won an unprecedented 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in the UK general election, which also saw Mr Cameron's Conservatives win an overall majority in the House of Commons.

The first minister criticised proposals for further powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, which her party says do not go far enough.

Ms Sturgeon has said that the SNP's manifesto for next May's Holyrood election will set out its position on a second referendum and consider the circumstances in which it might be appropriate to propose one.

'Changed for good'

Speaking as independence supporters marched through Edinburgh to mark the anniversary, she said: "It would be wrong to propose another referendum without a fundamental change of circumstances or a strong indication that a significant number of those who voted 'No' last year had changed their minds.

"But it would also be wrong - in the face of a clear and material shift in circumstances or public opinion - for any one politician or party to rule out another referendum.

"Because the key principle is democracy. Politicians can propose and campaign. But only the people can decide.

"Only the people can decide if we will have another referendum. Only the people can decide when that will be. And only the people can decide if Scotland will become independent.

"And for those of us who want Scotland to be independent, that is our challenge."

Ms Sturgeon said that Conservative policies on issues such as austerity and Trident nuclear weapons, which are based in Scotland, were bringing independence closer.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe Edinburgh Agreement signed by then First Minister Alex Salmond and Mr Cameron ahead of the referendum committed both the UK and Scottish governments to respect the result
image captionIndependence supporters under the banner of 'Yes2' marched through Edinburgh on the first anniversary of the referendum

Stating her belief that Scotland has "changed for good" as a result of the referendum, she argued that the people of Scotland "discovered our voice - and found that as a nation we could make the world listen".

She said: "Right now, what people see at Westminster is a Tory government failing to fully deliver on the vow it made on more powers for our parliament.

"They see a Tory government continuing to impose austerity on working people and the disabled - way beyond anything required to reduce the deficit and in spite of Scotland electing 56 anti-austerity MPs.

"And they see a government arrogantly pressing ahead with plans to renew Trident - at a cost of £100bn - before the House of Commons has even voted and while our public services suffer the pain of their cuts.

"And it is all of that, more than anything, that explains what we now see happening in the polls."

'Energy and enthusiasm'

Scottish Labour's deputy leader, Alex Rowley, told BBC Scotland it had been a mistake for his party to campaign alongside the Conservatives as part of the Better Together campaign ahead of the referendum, and that the pro-UK side should have put forward a more positive message.

He told the Big Debate programme: "We tended to talk Scotland down. I'm as patriotic as anyone else, but I believe it is in Scotland's interests to remain a part of the United Kingdom but we need the powers that we believe should be in Scotland."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "It is unbelievable that with problems in the police, NHS and schools, the SNP want yet another referendum. The SNP government need to get on with the day job rather than plotting another referendum."


By Tim Reid, BBC political correspondent

The amendments will be among a series of changes tabled by ministers before the Scotland Bill returns to the Commons for Report Stage next month. So far none of the opposition party amendments have been accepted during the bill's progress.

Downing Street won't say how many amendments will be tabled by the government, but a Number 10 source said: "It will be a bill that, to any reasonable observer, meets the Smith Commission recommendations in full and shows that Holyrood is here to stay."

The source indicated that the amendments would put "beyond doubt" other contested issues, among them the Ms Sturgeon's claim that the bill contains a veto for Westminster on welfare powers, which UK ministers insist it does not.

The government has indicated it is "unlikely" that ministers will accept a proposal put forward this week by Labour to assign 100% of VAT revenues to the Scottish government, rather than the 50% proposed in the bill.

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