Nicola Sturgeon has been denied a mandate for a second independence referendum and must now focus all her efforts on steering Scotland through the Covid-19 crisis, independent, non-party business group Scottish Business UK (SBUK) has said.

With the SNP failing to get an overall majority in the election, SBUK said that the First Minister will “not be forgiven” by the business community if, after failing to get the endorsement she asked for, she prioritises a divisive referendum over saving lives and economic recovery from the pandemic.

The SNP secured 64 seats in the Scottish Parliament, one short of the number Sturgeon and her allies have always made clear would give them a mandate for a second referendum.

Pro-UK parties secured over 50% of the constituency vote – a clear indication that most Scots reject a second referendum. The SNP made clear throughout the election campaign that there would not be an independence referendum until the Covid pandemic is over.

SBUK Chairman Robert Kilgour said:

“Nicola Sturgeon asked for a mandate for another independence referendum and that has been denied to her. The precedent for a referendum is an SNP majority and that test has not been met.

“Voters have given the SNP a clear message that they must set aside any plans for a referendum and focus on recovering from the pandemic – saving lives and livelihoods, ensuring jobs are saved and that businesses survive.

“Every political party standing in the election put responding to – and recovering from – Covid at the heart of their manifestos. The Scottish Government must now work constructively with Westminster to keep that promise. A divisive and distracting referendum during this crisis would be a betrayal of the Scottish people and the business community in particular, which they will not be forgiven for.”

Note to Editors

– Scottish Business UK (SBUK) is an independent, non-party voice for business leaders who want to see Scotland thrive economically as part of the United Kingdom. SBUK is a registered company known as ‘SB Supports the Union Ltd’.

– SBUK’s Advisory Council currently has a membership overseeing business interests that together employ over 10,000 people in Scotland and 35,000 people across the UK and Ireland.  Profiles of each member can be read at

– Scottish Business UK is registered with the Electoral Commission as a non-party campaigner, meaning that the amounts spent on campaign activities during the Scottish Parliament election period will be submitted in returns to the Commission.

– In 2011, after securing a majority in the parliamentary elections, the SNP made clear that it was a majority which allowed them to hold an independence referendum. Former SNP leader Alex Salmond said: “Just as the Scottish people have restored trust in us, we must trust the people as well,” he declared. “Which is why, in this term of the parliament, we will bring forward a referendum and trust the people on Scotland’s own constitutional future.” (Guardian, May 2011, link)

– Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly suggested that only a parliamentary majority would give her a mandate to hold a second independence referendum. She told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show in January: “I want to have a legal referendum, that’s what I’m going to seek the authority of the Scottish people for in May and if they give me that authority that’s what I intend to do: to have a legal referendum to give people the right to choose. (Guardian, January 2021, link)

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