The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has voted to back another independence referendum if a majority of MSPs are in favour of the move after May 6 – but it stressed the immediate priority is recovering from the pandemic.
The announcement is the result of a vote at the body’s annual meeting, which concluded it is for the Scottish Parliament to decide when or if another referendum should be held.
But the union bosses rejected attempts to gain a supermajority of MSPs in favour of independence by the Alba Party by using what it calls “tactical manoeuvring”, fearing it may undermine the sovereignty of voters as Scotland remains broadly split on the question of independence.
STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “Our vote today has reaffirmed the right of the Scottish people to self-determination and recognised that as the central democratic institution in Scotland, our Parliament should have the power to determine whether and when to hold a second referendum.
“But we have also asserted that economic and social recovery is our priority, and that radical policy is needed to achieve that in a way that redresses current imbalances of power and wealth. We will hold to account all parties of all political colours who take their eye off that ball.”
Ms Foyer also said any second vote would not have to be a straight choice between independence and remaining in the UK if a “meaningful third option is developed”.
Since before the 2014 referendum, some have said the possibility of “devolution max” should be explored, where Scotland remains part of the UK but is given substantially more powers than are currently held at Holyrood, with only major portfolios such as defence reserved to Westminster.
Both the SNP and the Scottish Greens welcomed the STUC’s announcement on Wednesday.
SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “This is a significant and important intervention from the STUC, which proves that both Labour and the Tories’ arrogant attempts to deny democracy will not stand.
“There is simply no democratic, electoral or moral justification for any politician to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose a better future.”
Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The position outlined by Scotland’s trade union movement recognises the fundamental right of self-determination.
“The STUC rightly says that Scotland’s future is a matter for the people of Scotland, and if they choose to elect a Parliament with a pro-independence majority then it should be for that Parliament to hold a referendum.
“I’m sure many traditional Labour voters will find it incomprehensible that the Scottish Labour Party’s position is at odds with this perfectly reasonable statement of democratic principles.”