Nicola Sturgeon is insisting she will push for an independence referendum after the Scottish election even as the chances of a Scottish National Party (SNP) majority remain “on a knife edge”.
The SNP will form the next Scottish government, either with an outright majority or with the help of the Green Party, which also supports Scottish independence.
Sturgeon said “when the time is right” she will offer Scotland “the choice of a better future” through a second independence referendum.
Boris Johnson hit back last night, telling the Telegraph that a referendum “in the current context is irresponsible and reckless”.
If the SNP win a majority in the election and Johnson refuses to grant a referendum, then Sturgeon has vowed to organise an unsanctioned “wildcat” vote that would plunge the UK into a constitutional crisis.
Sturgeon will likely argue that a SNP and Green Party majority would also provide a pro-independence mandate for a second referendum.
“I think that there’s no case now for such a thing … I don’t think it’s what the times call for at all,” Johnson said.
“I don’t think this is anything like the time to have more constitutional wrangling, to be talking about ripping our country apart, when actually people want to heal our economy and bounce forward together.”
The SNP have won 40 seats so far, with the Liberal Democrats on four, the Tories on three and Labour two.
The SNP need to pick up 65 seats for a majority.
When asked about the prospect of a majority, Sturgeon said: “It’s certainly not impossible, but nor is it guaranteed.
“That was always going to be on a knife edge, it comes down to a small number of votes in a small number of seats, so at this midway point it is certainly still there as a possibility, but I have never taken that for granted.
“It is a long shot, to say the least, in a PR (proportional representation) system, to win a majority – you effectively have to break the system. I would like to do it, but I have never been complacent about that.”