Nicola Sturgeon has claimed the Conservatives are “terrified” of another vote on Scottish independence after the party’s leader in Scotland challenged her priorities.
The First Minister launched a new campaign for another referendum on independence earlier this week, publishing the first in a series of papers that will make up the prospectus for an independent Scotland.
Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson said the Scottish Government plans to hold a vote in October next year.
The first document compared the UK to other nations of a similar size to Scotland on key economic and social measures, with further publications due over the coming months, as well as an update on a route to a referendum without the use of a Section 30 order to devolve the necessary powers to Holyrood expected before the end of the month.
Nicola Sturgeon Russell Cheyne
At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, the first since the launch of the new campaign, Tory leader Douglas Ross questioned the Scottish Government’s priorities.
He said attention should be paid to closing the poverty-related attainment gap and funding the NHS as opposed to pushing for another “divisive” vote.
But Ms Sturgeon told him: “There is a real desperation at the heart of Douglas Ross’s approach to independence.
Scottish Conservative party leader Douglas Ross during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh Jane Barlow
“It’s very telling that he is so terrified of the substantive debate on independence, so terrified of the verdict of the Scottish people on independence ,that he’s reduced to somehow trying to pretend that democracy in Scotland is illegal.
“It is not a question of whether this Government respects the rule of law – we do and always will – the question is, is Douglas Ross a democrat?
“And I think the glaring answer to that is no.”
Responding, Mr Ross said: “First Minister, your priorities are all wrong at the worst possible time.
“It is a crucial moment right now for public services and our economy.
“We’ve just gone through a pandemic, war in Europe has hiked energy prices, there is a global cost-of-living crisis.”
He said it is time for people to “pull together” to tackle the issues at hand, adding: “A focus on our recovery, that’s what the Scottish people overwhelmingly want, not a referendum.
“We need a strong government for all of Scotland, but we’re getting a weak campaign group for the nationalist minority that values grievance over governing.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “Independence is about ensuring that we can better meet the priorities of the Scottish people.”
She claimed the challenges outlined by Mr Ross are being “exacerbated” because Scotland is not independent.