Ms Sturgeon will lead the SNP into the Scottish election on May 6 in the hope of winning a majority Government that would pile pressure on Prime Mi
Ms Sturgeon will lead the SNP into the Scottish election on May 6 in the hope of winning a majority Government that would pile pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to cave to her demands for a second referendum on Scottish independence. The First Minister has insisted her party will press ahead with a second independence vote should it win a majority at the Holyrood elections in just over two months time. But away from her campaign for Scottish independence, Ms Sturgeon is coming under intense pressure from a number of quarters.
On Friday, former First Minister Alex Salmond will appear before the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims made against him.
He is expected to give evidence on the botched investigation and face questions about his allegations that Ms Sturgeon has misled Parliament and breached the ministerial code.
Ms Sturgeon has robustly denied all the claims made against her.
The SNP leader has also faced criticism over her Government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic, associated lockdowns and the rollout of the Covid vaccine throughout the country.
Now leading bookmaker Coral has cut the odds on her leaving her position as First Minister this year from 4-1 to just 2-1.
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes is favourite to take over from Ms Sturgeon with odds of 3-1, followed by former SNP leader Angus Robertson (4-1) and current Deputy First Minister John Swinney (6-1).
Outside bets are former Shadow Home Secretary Joanna Cherry (10-1), the SNP’s deputy leader Keith Brown and Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf (both 12-1).
Coral’s John Hill said: “Nicola Sturgeon is increasingly becoming under fire for some of her decisions and as a result the odds have been cut in half for her to leave her position by the end of the year.
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“Kate Forbes tops the betting to be the next First Minister, with Angus Robertson and John Swinney also in the running according to our odds.”
In a hammer blow to Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish independence hopes, Prime Minister Mr Johnson said earlier today he could not see the point of having a second referendum on the matter, “at any time in the foreseeable future”
He said: “I think the focus of politicians throughout the UK should be on fighting the pandemic, working together to defeat Covid and building back better and quite frankly I do not see the virtue, value or utility of having a referendum at any time in the foreseeable future, particularly when we have to defeat Covid and take our country forward.”
Asked if Ms Sturgeon should resign if she is found to have misled the Scottish Parliament, Mr Johnson replied: “I’m focusing on fighting the pandemic and that’s what we’re all doing across the whole of the UK.
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“I am indeed working across the whole of the UK right now to fight the pandemic I think that’s what everyone wants us to do.
“That’s what all politicians should be focused on, that should be our number one priority and for what it is worth, since you ask me to comment on these issues, I don’t see the sense in having a referendum on the constitution of the UK whilst we’re trying to defeat coronavirus and build back better.”
Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon came under pressure from business leaders to provide more clarity about the easing of Covid restrictions after the First Minister’s lockdown announcement.
She revealed a three-phased approach, the first of which has seen some children already return to schools.
The second phase, which will not start until March 15 at the earliest, will see more pupils return to school and non-contact sports for those aged 12-17 restarting.
The final phase will see a full return of schools, the lifting of the stay at home order and the expansion of the essential retail definition – but not until April 5 at the earliest.
But Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall, said: “Today’s provisional timescale of the gradual re-opening of the economy as set out by the First Minister today is welcome.
“However, I know from the many conversations I’ve had with tourism businesses this week, and particularly within the last 24 hours that they were hoping for more detail around the pathway to reopening.
“The detail announced today does not go far enough in giving our sector the clarity needed at this point to plan for reopening.”