Nicola Sturgeon issues appeal to referendum No voters
SNP tries to win over both sides of the Scottish independence debate, as Evel plans are revived
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to issue an appeal to referendum No voters today in a bid to secure a historic third term in government for the SNP.
She will open the party's biggest ever annual conference with an all-inclusive, "one nation-style" speech, reports the Scotsman.
"Everyone, from the strongest supporter of independence to the stoutest advocate of the Union, has the right to know we will continue to govern well with the powers we have at any given time," Sturgeon is expected to say.
Around 3,500 delegates will gather in Aberdeen for the conference, ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May of next year.
"I don't just want to win the votes of independence supporters. I want to inspire people who voted No last year to vote SNP too," Sturgeon will say.
"I want them to vote SNP because they know we are the best party, with the best ideas and the best people to lead Scotland forward."
The first minister is expected to acknowledge the "significant interest" in what the SNP manifesto will say about independence, but she looks unlikely to reveal the answer.
The fortunes of the SNP have "flourished" since the referendum defeat last year, says the Scotsman. Within eight months of the vote, party membership officially passed 100,000, a four-fold increase, and the party celebrated a dramatic Westminster election victory with 56 out of 59 MPs winning seats in Scotland.
Sturgeon's speech comes as ministers prepare to introduce the reformulated plans for English votes for English laws (Evel) in the House of Commons next week. Tory sources told the Times that the timing of the announcement was intended as a "deliberate provocation" of the SNP at the start of its annual conference.
'Holyrood is here to stay' says David Cameron
On the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, David Cameron has dismissed claims he reneged on his promise to the Scottish people.
The Prime Minister spoke of the unprecedented turnout in the referendum and said he would make sure that Scottish devolution couldn't be undone by Westminster legislation.
"One year ago Scotland's majority spoke," he said. "More Scots voted to keep our kingdom united than have ever voted for any party in any election in Scottish history.
"[We] listened. So let me be crystal clear: Scottish devolution is woven into the very fabric of our United Kingdom. We will table an amendment to the Scotland bill so there is absolutely no doubt: Holyrood is here to stay."
The first anniversary of the vote will be marked by a speech by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. She is expected to tell the Prime Minister that the future of the UK relies on him listening to the 56 SNP Westminster MPs that were elected in the May General Election.
"Right now, you are living on borrowed time," Sturgeon is expected to say. "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."
Cameron dismissed that challenge, claiming: "Some may want to obsess about separation. But I am focused on delivering devolution so that the debate can move on from what powers the Scottish Parliament should have, to how they are used to better the lives of the people of Scotland.
"Today, on the anniversary of that historic vote, let me repeat: We are delivering a new, accountable and permanent Scottish Parliament. Holyrood will be one of the most powerful devolved parliament."
The anniversary comes in a week when Cameron was visibly irked by an SNP question during Prime Minister's Questions, which alleged he had broken his vow to the Scottish people.
Former First Minister Alex Salmond also told The Independent this week that he thought another vote on independence would result in a ‘yes’ from the Scottish electorate.
He explained: "I think we'd win. With a campaign of course – the reason I'd do that is that we started at 28 per cent during the [last] campaign and finished at 45 per cent. I think if you start at 50 per cent, you're likely to end up substantially better than that."
In last year's referendum, 55 per cent of voters backed remaining in the UK, with 45 per cent in favour of independence.
Referendum anniversary: has Scotland got what it was promised?
Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, when the majority of Scots voted to remain a part of the UK. One year on from the historic vote, there is continued debate about whether David Cameron has delivered on his promise of further devolution.
'The Vow' and the Smith report
The Prime Minister, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg made a vow during the final days of the campaign pledging "permanent an extensive" new powers if the people of Scotland rejected independence. When they did - with a vote of 55 per cent - the government established the cross-party Smith Commission to examine which powers could be further devolved to Holyrood.
The commission's report recommended that the Scottish Parliament be given new powers over tax and welfare, including control over income tax rates and a number of benefits, as well as increased borrowing powers and management of Crown Estate assets.
However, many in Scotland felt the measures did not go far enough. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the she was disappointed in the proposals offered and described the package as "continued Westminster rule". Lord McConnell, a Labour peer and former Scottish first minister, was equally critical, describing the entire commission as a "shambles".
The Scotland Bill
Earlier this year, the Government introduced the Scotland Bill, which it said would enshrine the Smith recommendations in law. The bill is still working its way through parliament but has been widely criticised by Scottish politicians. Although the SNP's representatives on the Smith Commission signed off on the final agreement, they made it clear they were unhappy with the limited powers.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said the Bill falls short on issues such as social security, employment programmes and the Crown estate and threatened to block it unless an agreement is reached linking Scotland's budget to economic performance, the BBC reports. He also criticised the legislation for allowing UK ministers to veto proposed changes to universal credit and energy schemes.
Has Westminster delivered?
Speaking to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Swinney said that the Smith report fell short of the promises of 'The Vow' and the Scotland Bill did not currently represent the recommendations made by the commission, the BBC reports.
During this week's Prime Minister's Questions, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson accused Cameron of breaking his promise to Scotland. "Not one single amendment has been accepted by the Government to the Scotland Bill," said Robertson. "Let me ask the Prime Minister again when will he fully deliver what was promised to the people of Scotland?"
Cameron dismissed his accusation, insisting that "unprecedented devolution on taxes" was being sent to the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish independence: second referendum back on the agenda
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that a second Scottish independence referendum could be triggered by a dramatic change in Britain's political landscape.
The Scottish First Minister and leader of the SNP said her party's manifesto for next year's Holyrood election would include a timescale and set of circumstances that could prompt a second vote.
"It will then be down to people to accept whether they vote for that manifesto," she told Scotland's Sunday Herald. "People, as they vote in the election next year, will know what our position is and what our view is on the circumstances in which a second referendum might be appropriate."
Possible triggers are believed to include a decision to take the UK out of the European Union. A more detailed plan is expected to be revealed following the SNP’s annual conference in Aberdeen next month.
Sturgeon still insists that she would not hold another referendum unless she was certain of victory. "I don’t ever want to feel what I felt in the early hours of 19 September," she told STV.
"If we are going to have another independence referendum I want to know there is support in Scotland for independence that means that referendum is going to be successful."
The most recent YouGov poll revealed that 47 per cent of Scots back independence, while another conducted by Ipsos Mori at the beginning of the month showed 53 per cent would vote ‘yes’ this time.
Earlier this year, David Cameron said a second vote was not even "remotely on the cards", but SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie today warned that any UK Prime Minister who stood in the way of another Scottish referendum would be "very, very foolish".
Sturgeon has also suggested that Jeremy Corbyn's victory could speed up a second vote. If Labour isn't seen to pose a credible threat to the Conservatives, "many more people in Scotland are likely to conclude that independence is the only alternative to continued Tory government," said Sturgeon.
But Unite union boss Len McCluskey insists Corbyn's win will do the opposite, with the leader winning back disillusioned Labour voters north of the border, The Times reports. "The only person possibly with a chance of bringing Scotland back to Labour is Jeremy," McCluskey said.
Scottish independence: most Scots 'would vote Yes' today
The majority of Scots would vote in favour of independence if a second referendum were held tomorrow, a new poll has shown.
The survey conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of STV revealed that 53 per cent of people in Scotland would vote yes, 44 per cent would say no, and just three per cent were undecided.
Out of the 1,002 people polled, 50 per cent said they would support one in the next five years, while 58 per cent backed another vote in the next decade.
The poll also predicted a landslide victory of 74 seats for the Scottish Nationalist Party in next May's Holyrood election and revealed that nearly three-quarters approved of the way Nicola Sturgeon was doing her job.
The survey comes nearly a year after Scotland first voted against independence, and there is growing speculation that the SNP will include terms for a second vote in its manifesto.
Sturgeon has said a second referendum could happen if there was a "material change" in the country's circumstances – for example an exit from the EU. However, she insists the party has no immediate plans to hold another vote.
"This is a sensational poll for the SNP," the party's business convener Derek Mackay told the BBC. "It shows not only that people across Scotland support us in huge and growing numbers eight years into government, but that they believe we have a strong record on key issues like health and education."
The poll will, however, make "woeful reading" for new Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, with the party on course to perform even worse than it did in the last election four years ago, says The Scotsman.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservative Party has urged the SNP not to "revel" in the poll but to "focus on the day job" instead.
"While the Scottish government takes Scotland down the constitutional cul-de-sac, education standards have fallen and the police service set up by this SNP government just two years ago is facing breakdown," a spokesperson said.
"Scotland needs a better way forward, not a step back to yet another referendum."
Scottish independence: SNP told to clarify referendum position
The Conservative Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has urged the Scottish National Party to clarify its position on the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum.
Former SNP leader Alex Salmond said yesterday that a second referendum was "inevitable", ten months after Scots rejected independence by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
With opinion polls suggesting that an SNP landslide is on the cards in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, speculation is growing that the party will include terms for a second referendum in its manifesto.
Scottish secretary Mundell, whose role is to promote the partnership between the UK government and the Scottish government, has said that no contingency plans have been made for a further independence referendum.
In a response to two parliamentary questions posed by Margaret Ferrier, the SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, he pointed out that Salmond and his successor Nicola Sturgeon had both described last year's referendum as a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity.
"I think Nicola Sturgeon needs to be much clearer. Is it the SNP policy to have a second referendum or not?" said Mundell, the only Conservative MP left north of the border.
The nationalists are yet to confirm their pledges for the Holyrood election, but Salmond told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show yesterday that three things were driving the case for a second referendum: Westminster's failure to deliver more powers to Scotland; the possible outcome of the EU referendum; and "divergent views" over austerity cuts.
Sturgeon, whose party won 56 out of the 59 Scottish seats in May's general election, said that she had "no difference of opinion" with Salmond. She has previously said that she expects to see an independent Scotland in her lifetime but that it would be up to the Scottish people.
There will only be another vote if there is a "material change" in circumstances, and if the SNP won the Scottish parliamentary election on the back of a manifesto promising another vote, said Sturgeon.
Scottish independence: SNP charged with plotting fresh referendum
The SNP has been criticised for planning a second referendum after one of its new MPs tabled questions about Scottish independence.
Margaret Ferrier, the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, submitted two questions to Scottish Secretary David Mundell on the issue.
She asked about the government's response if a party promising to hold a second referendum secures a majority in next year's Holyrood election and whether any contingency plans had been drawn up.
The Scottish Conservatives and Labour have taken this as a hint that the SNP has not abandoned its plans for independence, the Daily Telegraph reports.
John Lamont, the Scottish Conservative Chief Whip, said: "The SNP is going to have to accept that, less than a year ago, the Scottish people spoke decisively on this matter."
"Instead of endlessly agitating for independence, the SNP MPs should do the job their constituents sent them to Westminster to carry out."
Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said that "few people will believe the SNP have given up on independence, and it seems this MP has let the cat out the bag."
After the SNP's landslide victory in the general election, Nicola Sturgeon said she had no immediate plans to push forward with a second referendum, but she has yet to rule out another vote after the Scottish elections next May.
The SNP has previously said that a second referendum would only be held if it won the Scottish parliamentary election on the back of a manifesto promising another vote.
George Kerevan, another newly elected SNP MP, has said he expects the party's autumn conference "to fizz with the question of putting a mandate for independence into the 2016 manifesto".
A party spokesperson said Sturgeon had made it clear that she is not planning another referendum, "but equally has made it clear that it is not in the gift of any politician and party to rule it out indefinitely."
Scottish independence: will there be another referendum?
The Scottish National Party's sweeping victory in the general election has reopened the debate about Scottish independence, which last year's referendum was intended to settle.
Scotland voted against becoming an independent country by 55 per cent to 45 per cent last September. But just eight months later, the SNP won 56 out of 59 seats north of the border.
During the campaign, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said repeatedly that the 2015 election was not "about independence", but she is yet to rule out a second referendum after the Scottish elections in 2016. The morning after the election she announced that the "tectonic plates" of Scottish politics had shifted.
"It hasn't happened overnight, not even in the last seven months since the referendum, although that's accelerated the process, but Labour has been losing the trust of people in Scotland now over a period of years," she said.