Nicola Sturgeon accused of taking from ‘Trump playbook’ as she turns on IndyRef2 opponents

Nicola Sturgeon - Andy Buchanan/AFP
Nicola Sturgeon - Andy Buchanan/AFP

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of resorting to the "Trump playbook" with "dangerous" language suggesting that Scots opposed to her independence referendum plans are not democrats.

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said the First Minister insulted millions of Scots who do not want a separation vote after arguing that her fellow nationalists are the "supporters of Scottish democracy".

He said she had used "dangerous and harmful language" that branded those who would rather she focused on the NHS crisis as "democracy deniers".

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, tweeted: "This ‘Scotland’s democracy movement’ title is straight out of the Trump playbook and can get in the bin."

In an extraordinary intervention, a senior SNP MP representing the same part of Glasgow as Ms Sturgeon, appeared to criticise her for warning that she would not allow "Scottish democracy to be a prisoner of Westminster".

Stewart McDonald, the Glasgow South MP, tweeted that "we must shun talk of being imprisoned or shackled" as he warned that the independence campaign was "not a liberation struggle, but one of democratic, social and economic renewal and empowerment".

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader - Ken Jack/Getty Images Europe
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader - Ken Jack/Getty Images Europe

He said the SNP did not need "the court to tell us" that Scotland was not an official colony. However, the justices only made this point when rejecting an SNP submission citing a court case that referred to "oppressed" people.

The barrage of criticism for Ms Sturgeon's rhetoric came after she addressed a rally outside Holyrood following Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling blocking a separation vote, telling hundreds of separatists that they had become "Scotland's democracy movement".

She had earlier accused the UK Government of "outright democracy denial", a position she predicted was "unsustainable" despite opinion polls showing a majority of Scots oppose holding a referendum on Oct 19 2023.

Her intervention echoed tactics adopted by Alex Salmond in the 2014 referendum campaign when he branded his supporters "Team Scotland" and his opponents "Team Westminster".

Mr Ross said: "I think the language we've heard from Nicola Sturgeon over the last 24 hours about democracy deniers is very dangerous and harmful.

"I accept there's rough and tumble in political debate but there's millions of Scots who don't want another referendum right now. It's their First Minister telling them they are democracy deniers because they want the focus to be on the health service."

Rejecting Ms Sturgeon's claim that Scotland was trapped in the Union, Mr Ross pointed out a referendum was held only eight years ago and people clearly voted to stay in the UK.

Attacking Ms Sturgeon's language, Mr Cole-Hamilton, the Edinburgh Western MSP, tweeted: "I was elected to oppose a referendum with more votes than any other candidate in the history of the Scottish Parliament. It’s my democratic duty to continue to oppose it."

Short shrift by Rishi Sunak

Ms Sturgeon has claimed she would have a mandate to open independence negotiations with the UK Government if nationalist parties win a majority of the popular vote but this has been given short shrift by Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister,  and Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader.

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday the First Minister's draft Referendum Bill would go beyond her powers as the Union between Scotland and England and the sovereignty of the UK Parliament are matters reserved to Westminster.

Lord Reed of Allermuir, the court's Scottish president, said a "unanimous" decision had been reached and it was "clear" that a separation vote would have "important political consequences" for the Union.

The five justices also gave short shrift to SNP submissions that international law conferred a legal right to self-determination, saying they had relied on a Canadian case that referred to "oppressed" people in former colonies or under military occupation.

But Neil Gray, the SNP's Culture Minister, repeated Ms Sturgeon's language, saying: "The 'Yes' movement, the independence movement in Scotland, now becomes the democracy movement in Scotland because it is incumbent, it is not a small question, it is not a small issue, to expect governments to respect democracy."

Ms Sturgeon's official spokesman said: "The only people behaving like Donald Trump are people who try and deny the reality of election results. They are trying to deny the reality of an election result in a free and fair democracy."