Sturgeon accused of 'crossing the line' as independence dubbed 'embarrassing distraction'

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “crossing the line”, as her campaign for Scottish independence was dubbed an “embarrassing distraction”. Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Bruce of Benachie hit out at Ms Sturgeon for “spending £20m of taxpayers’ money on wasting civil servants’ time on matters that are reserved for the united kingdom government”. He called on the Scottish First Minister to “cease and desist from constantly crossing the line from devolved matters into reserved matters”.

The Conservative peer also said the UK Government has had “no discussions” with the Scottish Government on Ms Sturgeon’s latest white paper on independence.

His comments come in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for a fresh vote without Rishi Sunak’s consent.

In a press conference after the ruling, Ms Sturgeon vowed to continue pushing for independence, saying: “As long as there is breath in my body, I refuse to give up on the basic principle of democracy.”

Meanwhile, last month, it was revealed the Scottish Government has spent up to £1.5million to pay civil servants working on putting together the case for independence.

Speaking about Ms Sturgeon’s latest independence paper, which was published in the leadup to the Supreme Court ruling, Lord Bruce said: “I can confirm there have been no discussions with the Scottish Government about their recent policy paper entitled ‘Building a stronger economy’, dated October 2022.

“This is a third of seven glossy documents currently being produced by the Scottish government looking to bypass devolution by spending £20m of taxpayers’ money on wasting civil servants’ time on matters that are reserved for the United Kingdom government.”

He added: “Last month the supreme court gave a decisive and unanimous ruling that the Scottish Government has no legal competency to legislate and reserve matters.

“The constitution is clearly and unequivocally reserved to Westminster. It follows now that His Majesty’s Government calls on the Scottish Government to cease and desist from constantly crossing the line from devolved matters into reserved matters.”

Lord Offord of Garvel, a Liberal Democrat peer, criticised Ms Sturgeon’s latest independence paper, saying it is “almost entirely deficient in detail”.

He called on the SNP to get “on with the job at hand” rather than focussing on independence, which he dubbed an “embarrassing distraction”.

Lord Offord told the House of Lords: “Whilst this document is strong on nationalist rhetoric, it is almost entirely deficient in detail.

“The SNP don’t have the capacity to second guess the outcome of negotiations with either the rest of the UK, or the EU or financial markets.

“And that they should recognise Scottish opinion is still divided and what they should be doing is getting on with the job at hand, addressing what matters in the ailing health service, and declining education and end this embarrassing distraction.”

Ms Sturgeon’s latest independence paper included a proposal on re-joining the EU for access to the Single Market, making it clear that reversing Brexit is key to the SNP’s independence vision.

Speaking about the paper, the Scottish First Minister said that the UK Government “cannot be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests”.

She said “independence is now essential” in order to “prevent further economic damage being inflicted by Westminster Governments”.

The First Minister claimed that Brexit has made the UK even more “ill-equipped to cope with events like the cost of living crisis”.

Ahead of the speech, the First Minister said Scotland has an “abundance of skilled people, innovative businesses, and natural resources”.

But the SNP leader warned: “Scotland’s economy is one of the best performing in the UK – however, the UK economy, particularly post-Brexit, is now lagging behind many EU and international comparators.

“The UK economic model is demonstrably failing and increasingly holding Scotland back. Independence is now essential to build an economy that works for everyone.”

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