Battle ahead: Scotland party leader vows independence push

Newly re-elected British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a big challenge from the leaders of the Scottish independence movement

WHO IS NICOLA STURGEON AND WHAT IS HER ROLE IN SCOTTISH POLITICS?

The daughter of an electrician and a dental nurse, she became a lawyer after training at the University of Glasgow and has earned a reputation for being well-prepared, witty and at ease with voters, and blunt when she needs to be.

WHAT IS THE LOOMING CONFRONTATION ABOUT?

Sturgeon and her party are dead set on holding a referendum on Scottish independence, despite firm opposition from Johnson, who says his government would not authorize a vote on the matter.

A Scottish breakaway would thrust a dagger into the heart of the United Kingdom, creating a crisis that Johnson is determined to avoid as he tries to manage the difficult Brexit process that is his main focus.

The British establishment thought it had put the matter to rest when a “once-in-a-generation” referendum in 2014 turned thumbs down on Scottish independence by a 10-point margin. But it has surfaced again, in part because of issues raised by the 2016 Brexit referendum and in part by the SNP’s strong showing on Thursday.

WHY IS STURGEON PUSHING SO HARD RIGHT NOW?

Sturgeon says things have changed since the first independence vote, primarily because Britain voted in 2016 to leave the European Union over the objections of Scottish voters, who expressed a clear desire to remain part of the prosperous trading bloc.

She says Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against its will — and won’t stand for it.

Sturgeon threw down the gauntlet Friday, saying she is demanding, not requesting, a referendum.

“This is not about asking Boris Johnson or any other Westminster politician for permission. It is instead an assertion of the democratic right of the people of Scotland to determine their future,” she said, promising to begin next week the formal process of setting up a recognized referendum.

She did not shy away from confronting Johnson. Saying she wanted to speak directly to the prime minister, she looked at the TV camera and said: “You as the leader of a defeated party in Scotland have no right to stand in the way” of a second vote on independence.

Despite Sturgeon's confrontational stance, it is not clear that Scottish voters’ desire to break away from the United Kingdom has increased since the 2014 vote. The vote then was 55% to 45% against independence — and the SNP's share of the popular vote in Scotland in Thursday's election was also at 45%.

HOW DID THE 2014 REFERENDUM TAKE PLACE?

The British Parliament gave its formal approval to the 2014 vote and it was binding, meaning that Scotland would have been able to become an independent country if a majority of voters had backed the measure. Parliament acted after Scottish and UK ministers signed an agreement. The Scottish Parliament also gave its approval for the vote.

Some independence backers have called for Scotland to hold a referendum without British approval if Johnson’s government sticks to its position and refuses to OK another vote, but Sturgeon has always declined to back this approach. It’s not known if her position on that will change as the confrontation with Johnson unfolds.