Sturgeon brands Tory leadership candidates ‘hypocrites’ for referendum comments

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are in the running to be the next prime minister.

22 July 2022

The two remaining candidates to be the next prime minister have been branded “hypocrites” by Nicola Sturgeon over past comments on referendums.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss secured their place in the final vote by Tory members this week, kicking of more than a month of intense campaigning before the result is announced on September 5 and the new prime minister enters Number 10.

Speaking to the PA news agency on Friday, the First Minister said neither candidate would receive the backing of the Scottish people, reiterating her claims that there is a “deep democratic deficit” in the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as speaking during a visit to a medical centre on Friday (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

Ms Sturgeon also attacked the candidates over their past comments on referendums.

Mr Sunak said in 2017 it would be “hard” to block a second vote on Scottish independence, but that it should be pushed until after Brexit.

He told the Daily Express at the time: “It seems hard to block a (second) referendum but we should push the timing until after Brexit so the choice is clearer for people.

“A good deal will strengthen the case for the union.”

A clip of Ms Truss, speaking at the 1994 Liberal Democrat party conference – when she was a member of the party – showed her support for votes “on major constitutional issues”.

But both candidates have since expressed their opposition to another vote on Scottish independence.

Mr Sunak told the Spectator podcast this week that another referendum is “not the priority” for people in Scotland.

When asked if she would agree to a request for indyref2 under any circumstances, Ms Truss said this week: “No.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss
Either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss will be the next prime minister (PA)

“The last referendum in 2014 was described as a once-in-a-generation referendum, we’re now in 2022 – that is not a generation ago.”

Despite the time that has elapsed since their original comments were made, the First Minister said it shows Mr Sunak and Ms Truss are “hypocrites”.

She said: “There’s been comments in the media from both of them in previous years in the last few days.

“Liz Truss talking about the importance of referenda in settling constitutional issues, Rishi Sunak a few years ago saying that there should be a referendum after Brexit – well we are after Brexit.

“They’re hypocrites – changing their position just to suit their narrow, party-political, democracy-denying agendas.

“It’s not about the interests of Scotland, it’s about their own interests.”

Scottish independence supporters
Nicola Sturgeon wants a second vote on Scottish independence to take place in October 2023 (PA)

Recognising that a Section 30 order – which would devolve the required powers to Holyrood for a referendum to be held – is unlikely to be granted by any occupant of Number 10, the First Minister asked Scotland’s top legal officer to refer a prospective referendum Bill to the UK Supreme Court.

The court has been asked to decide if the Scottish Parliament has the powers to legislate for a referendum, with arguments from both sides due on October 11 and 12.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I hope the outcome of the Supreme Court case will be that the Scottish Parliament can legislate for an advisory referendum to give people the opportunity to have their say on independence.”

She went on to describe both the Foreign Secretary and the former chancellor as “dismal choices” for prime minister.

“Scotland wouldn’t vote for either of them, even if it got the chance, which it’s not getting,” she said.

“Whether it’s Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, it’s going to be another Tory prime minister governing Scotland that Scotland hasn’t voted for and wouldn’t vote for.”

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