Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), vowed to renew her push for independence during a speech at the party’s spring conference Saturday, held just weeks ahead of the Scottish parliamentary elections. During an earlier independence referendum, held in September 2014, the “No” side won with 55 percent of votes cast in favor of sticking with the three-century-old union of Scotland, England and Wales.
“We will not achieve our dream of independence just by wishing that the outcome of the referendum had been different — or wishing that we could do it all again next week,” Sturgeon said, adding that a “new initiative” to build support for Scottish independence would be launched this summer.
“We will achieve independence only when we persuade a majority of our fellow citizens that it is the best future for our country,” she added. “Patiently and respectfully, we will seek to convince you that independence really does offer the best future for Scotland.”
The “Yes” campaign, led by the SNP, argues that the U.K.’s Conservative-led government’s policies have been detrimental to Scotland’s economic well-being. They argue that Scotland needs “the full range of fiscal powers” to deliver a “fairer, more empowered and just country.”
Scots voted 55 to 45 percent against independence in 2014, but the collapse of the Labour and Conservative parties since then vaulted the SNP to unprecedented gains in the British national election in 2015, when it won almost all the seats assigned to Scotland in the parliament at Westminster. Sturgeon’s SNP currently holds 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats in the British Parliament, and is polling strongly ahead of the May 5 vote for the 129-seat Scottish Parliament, where the SNP holds 64 seats.
Speaking at the conference Saturday, Sturgeon said that her party’s initiative would not attempt to “browbeat” anyone into supporting the “Yes” campaign.
“I also know that many wanted to be persuaded in 2014, but ultimately didn’t find our arguments compelling enough. So we will listen to what you have to say,” Sturgeon said. “We will hear your concerns and address your questions and, in the process, we will be prepared to challenge some of our own answers.”