Nicola will be rubbing hands with glee! UK election watchdog could skirt Boris on indyref2

Johnson won't 'stand for long' against IndyRef2 says SNP MP

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The new chairman John Pullinger said they could have independent discussions with Scottish Government officials to bring forward a vote even if the move is opposed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Mr Pullinger said the discussions would take place if Edinburgh wanted “something to be done that helps them with their democracy”.

The vote would be non-binding but Mr Pullinger comments could put the independent electoral watchdog on a collision course with London after Mr Johnson said plans were a second vote was “reckless” and ruled a referendum out.

UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove also said this week that he “can’t see” Boris Johnson agreeing to another vote before the next general election, adding it is “reckless” to discuss the issue while the country is still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Making the remarks to the Telegraph, the chairman of Britain’s elections regulator, added: “The UK Electoral Commission is also the electoral commission specifically for Scotland and Wales.

“We have a direct reporting line to Scotland and Wales.

“And, as of April this year, we are directly funded by Scotland and Wales too.

“If the Parliament in Scotland is wanting something to be done that helps them with their democracy, we will have an independent discussion with them about whether it’s appropriate for the commission to support that.”

When asked if the Commission was ready to facilitate a referendum, he said: “Yes, we are ready.

“We have a way of standing up the right teams and the right support structures that would build on what happened last time.”

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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stressed that the Holyrood election in May had given the SNP led Scottish Government a mandate for a second poll.

Ms Sturgeon said the Tory argument that the nations of the United Kingdom are equals “completely disintegrates” if the UK Government refuses to allow another vote on independence.

Senior party figures have also hinted the Scottish Government could bring forward their own Holyrood mandated vote if Westminster rejected a demand for a section 30 order.

Scottish ministers have already published a draft independence referendum Bill to give people in Scotland the “right to decide their future once the current health crisis is over.”

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The Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, published in March, stipulates the next Scottish Parliament should decide the timing of any referendum.

The draft bill states the question asked should be the same as at the 2014 referendum – “Should Scotland be an independent country?”.

Under the proposed legislation, it would also extend voting eligibility to match the franchise at Scottish Parliament and local government elections, which is age 16.

The Scottish Government today said the First Minister was “focused first on tackling the coronavirus pandemic” but stressed a vote could not be prevented

Refusing to be drawn on reference to a non-binding referendum, the source added: “The First Minister and her Cabinet have made clear the Tories cannot deny the people of Scotland their right to choose their future.

“But our priorities first and foremost is tackling the coronavirus pandemic.”

A UK Government source said: “We have set out our position to for a second independence referendum, now is not the time for another divisive vote.”

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