Fresh nightmare erupts for Queen

After a bruising political and tumultuous family year, Britain's Queen Elizabeth is facing a fresh imbroglio that could threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom.

On Thursday the 93-year-old monarch delivered the Queen's speech to set the agenda for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new Conservative government in the years ahead.

It included commitments to Britain leaving the European Union (EU), more spending on the National Health Service (NHS) and tougher sentencing for terrorists, along with a host of domestic plans.

However the speech came just hours after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon threw down the gauntlet to Mr Johnson, calling for a transfer of power that would allow Scotland to hold a second independence referendum in 2020, dubbed "indeyref2".

The Scottish National Party also published an "alternative Queen's speech" outlining 12 pledges for Scotland including a second independence vote, more NHS spending and an increase in the minimum wage.

 

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II delivers the government’s speech that outlines Boris Johnson’s legislative agenda. Picture: Aaron Chown, Pool via AP.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II delivers the government’s speech that outlines Boris Johnson’s legislative agenda. Picture: Aaron Chown, Pool via AP.

 

Speaking on Thursday morning, Ms Sturgeon claimed the recent election result - in which her party scored 48 out of 59 Scottish seats and 45 per cent of the vote in the country - gave a fresh mandate for Scotland to be offered a choice.

She said "tectonic plates are shifting" and in a voluntary association of nations like the UK, "members must be given a choice."

"Scotland made very clear last week that it does not want a Tory government led by Boris Johnson … taking us down a future that we have not chosen," she said.

"The mandate we have is by any normal standard of democracy, inarguable."

When asked how her arguments could win over the prime minister, she said the question must be turned on its head.

"It is for the prime minister to defend why he believes the UK is not a voluntary union of equal nations. It is for him to set out why he does not believe people in Scotland have the right to self-determination.

"And it is for the prime minister to explain why he believes it is acceptable to ignore election after election in Scotland and to over-ride a democratic mandate stronger than the one he claims for his Brexit deal.

"We live in a democracy, and ultimately democracy must and will prevail."

The Scottish leader said she was "relaxed" about the prospect of a second referendum because "the more the Tory government seeks to block the will of the Scottish people" it "sows the seeds of a longer term defeat".

"Tectonic plates are shifting," she said, adding that government opposition is "not the end of the matter and the Tory government should be under no illusion that it is".

 

The Scottish government document calls for a transfer of power. Picture: Neil Hanna/WPA Pool/Getty Images.
The Scottish government document calls for a transfer of power. Picture: Neil Hanna/WPA Pool/Getty Images.

 

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the vote of Scotland’s 2014 referendum must be respected, Picture: AP Photo/Frank Augstein.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the vote of Scotland’s 2014 referendum must be respected, Picture: AP Photo/Frank Augstein.


 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains opposed to holding another referendum and has said the result of the independence vote in 2014 must be respected. In that case, voters backed staying in the UK by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Polls suggest the gap has narrowed recently, however public opinion is still in favour of staying in the UK.

Despite this, Ms Sturgeon said it remains Scotland's right to decide. The Scottish government's paper titled Scotland's Right to Choose, lays out the case for a second referendum and says the decision is one for the Scottish parliament rather than the Westminster government "which has been rejected by the people of Scotland."

"We are today therefore calling on the UK Government to ensure a transfer of power is made - from Westminster to Holyrood - so that a fresh independence referendum is put beyond legal challenge," it states.

Demands for a transfer of power area a fresh political headache for the UK that is still in the midst of trying to negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU. Boris Johnson has pledged to pass his withdrawal agreement by 31 January 2020 and ruled out any extension to the deal.

It also caps of a tough year for the monarch who has been drawn into the political infighting through Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament, which was later ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Her majesty has also suffered from the backlash against Prince Andrew's friendship with Jeffrey Epstein and allegations over his behaviour. Together with Prince Charles, the decision was taken to force her second son to step back from public life.

Victoria.craw@news.com.au



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