Tory MP calls out Nicola Sturgeon for chatting during his speech
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Just hours after Ms Sturgeon ordered civil servants to get back to work on bringing forward a second vote, the UK Prime Minister called for a summit with the SNP leader and other devolved government leaders. In a letter to the Scottish First Minister, Mr Johnson said he hopes a meeting can take place face to face next month.
Mr Johnson, whose close officials tonight made clear he was “opposed” to a second referendum after Ms Sturgeon’s pledge, called for all four nations to work closely together.
In a signal the UK Prime Minister was committed to maintaining the Union, Mr Johnson said by 2024-25 Scotland would benefit from an additional £1,1billion in Barnett funding and UK-wide spending from the UK Government.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, added: “We tackled the pandemic as one United Kingdom, and it is vital that we work on our recovery together.”
Ms Sturgeon today pledged the Scottish Government would restart work on a “detailed prospectus” for a second independence vote as part of her Programme for Government.
Addressing MSPs in the Scottish Parliament today, the Scottish First Minister said “it is essential that we consider the kind of country we want to be, and how best to secure it”.
Questions over Scotland’s future “cannot be avoided, nor postponed until the die is already cast,” the First Minister said, as she confirmed the Government still wants to hold a referendum before the end of 2023 “Covid permitting”.
Ms Sturgeon added: “We will ensure that the choice, when it comes, is a fully informed one.
“To that end, I can confirm that the Scottish Government will now restart work on the detailed prospectus that will guide the decision.”
She stated: “The case for independence is a strong one, and we will present it openly, frankly and with confidence and ambition.”
Ms Sturgeon made the announcement ahead of the crunch SNP conference this weekend, where the director of the SNP’s Independence Unit expected to further reveal the party’s referendum plan.
The Scottish First Minister has come under increasing pressure from party members and former First Minister Alex Salmond to show progress on delivering a second vote.
But Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats claimed “independence will starve” other priorities that need to be worked on “of oxygen”.
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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, said: “In a statement that is 27 pages long, it takes to just the fourth paragraph for Nicola Sturgeon to mention independence.
“It’s right up there in front of all of the other priorities that we should have.”
A No 10 source said: “It’s clear Scottish independence is not going away anytime soon but we have already made clear our position.
“Now is not the time to be pushing forward a divisive and reckless independence vote.”
Ms Sturgeon claims she has a mandate for another vote was now secure following the SNP’s Cooperation Deal with the Scottish Greens who collectively hold 72 of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament.
But Downing Street said the agreement would “change nothing” on the case of independence.
A No 10 insider added: “It is also becoming clear there is not enough support for a second vote.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “This is an astonishing insult to the people of Scotland who want their government to focus on Covid recovery.
“To use government resources and revenue on a blueprint to divide communities shows just how out of touch the SNP and Greens are.”
Alongside a pledge for a second independence referendum, Ms Sturgeon also promised reform of Scotland’s public services, with a National Care Service Bill to be brought in in the next parliamentary year.
This legislation will “implement what is arguably the most significant public service reform since the creation of the National Health Service,” Ms Sturgeon said, as she pledged funding for social care would rise by at least £800 million over the lifetime of the Parliament.
The Scottish Child Payment, a £10 a week benefit which goes to help hard-up families, will be doubled to £20 a week as “early within the life of the Parliament as possible”, the First Minister added.
Tory minister accuses Nicola Sturgeon of getting priorities wrong
Ms Sturgeon stressed there would be a further investment of £1 billion before 2026 to help close the poverty-related attainment gap in Scotland’s schools.
Over the same period spending on the frontline health services will increase by 20 percent – meaning that by 2026-27, the budget for this should be be £2.5 billion higher than it is today.
Ms Sturgeon went on to pledge almost £3.5 billion of funding over the next five years to help build an additional 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland.
In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Ms Sturgeon insisted that her Programme for Government “sets out clear plans to lead Scotland out of the greatest health crisis in a century and transform our nation and the lives of those who live here”.
She added: “We will deliver a National Care Service; double the Scottish Child Payment; and invest in affordable, energy-efficient homes and green travel.”
But as well as promising to “invest in and reform our public services”, Ms Sturgeon used her statement to Holyrood to reaffirm the commitment to having a second Scottish independence vote.
The First Minister declared: “Our democratic mandate to allow people, not politicians, to decide the country’s future is beyond question.”
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