Scottish independence would ‘delight’ Putin — Russian ‘interference’ highlighted

Vladimir Putin speaks at the Economic Forum in St Petersburg

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A second referendum on Scottish independence could be held in October next year if the Scottish government gets the legal all-clear for its plans, the SNP’s Angus Robertson said this week. The government’s constitution secretary claimed on Wednesday that holding the public vote in October 2023 gives plenty of time for the necessary legislation to be scrutinised and passed. His comments came a day after Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined what she said was a “refreshed” case for independence and claimed to have a “mandate” for a new plebiscite.

However, Westminster remains firmly opposed to so-called ‘Indyref2’ and Boris Johnson has called for the result of the 2014 referendum – in which Scots rejected independence – to be respected.

The Prime Minister, who is in Kyiv today, rejected the idea of another constitutional vote at the Scottish Conservative conference in March, saying that now is “not the time”, given Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Johnson echoed the sentiments of Tory grandee William Hague, who in October claimed that Scottish independence would “delight” the Russian President.

The former Conservative Party leader and Foreign Secretary outlined his arguments in an essay for centre-right think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies.

He wrote: “The break-up of the UK will be a godsend to our enemies.

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“There are few results that would delight Vladimir Putin more than Scottish independence.”

At the time Mr Hague’s piece was published, Russia had already begun to amass troops and military hardware at its border with Ukraine.

The build-up of Russian forces continued into the winter before missiles rained down on Ukraine and Russian tanks rolled across the border on February 24 as the invasion began.

As Mr Hague commented on the threat Russia posed, he also referred to evidence of the Kremlin interfering in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence.

He said: “We know from the Russia report released last year that there have been credible claims that Russia interfered in the 2014 referendum.

“Similarly, the Atlantic Council has produced evidence that Russia has been running a disinformation campaign to discredit the result of the Scottish independence referendum result, including claims that ‘Yes’ ballot papers were added to ‘No’ piles.

“Russia’s motive is clear: breaking up one of the most successful unions of nations in history would both leave the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK more vulnerable to the malign influence of the Kremlin and weaken Britain’s ability to counter Russia on the world stage.”

The Former Foreign Secretary, who has dealt with Putin personally also made the case for British national unity in the face of Russia.

He said: “Given that Western democracy is being challenged in a way it has not been since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is more important than ever that Global Britain plays her role in defending democracy and liberal values on the world stage.

“Yet a surge of nationalism in Scotland puts the future of the United Kingdom and our country’s ability to be a force for good in the world at risk.

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“Despite the SNP losing its ‘once in a lifetime’ vote just seven years ago, the party again went into this year’s Holyrood elections seeking a mandate to subject Scotland to another bitter and divisive referendum.

“Although the Scottish people denied the SNP a majority and this mandate, Nicola Sturgeon ploughs ahead regardless.”

In May last year, the SNP won 64 seats in the Scottish Parliament but failed to secure a majority.

Despite the result, Ms Sturgeon has pledged to push on with her goal of delivering ‘Indyref2’.

The SNP leader claimed last month that the war in Ukraine had not changed the timeline for a new public vote.

She said: “I’ve not changed my position on the timescale we won the mandate for in the election last year.”

She explained her party was still against nuclear weapons, despite her promise for Scotland to re-join NATO, the nuclear-armed defensive military alliance.

She added: “My party is very strongly in principle and for practical reasons against nuclear weapons, and that’s not going to change.

“We’ve got to remember that the vast majority of countries in the world don’t have nuclear weapons.”

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