THE democratic principle of a second independence referendum is more important than its timing, Patrick Harvie has said.
The co-leader of the Scottish Greens said he would be “happy” if another vote took place before the end of 2023, as Nicola Sturgeon wants.
But he insisted the principle is “more important than the precise timing of when the referendum happens”.
Mr Harvie and his co-leader Lorna Slater recently joined the Scottish Government as ministers as part of a cooperation agreement with the SNP.
He said the last few weeks had been “extraordinary” and “challenging”, adding: “There is a pace of work that is way beyond what I had as an MSP.”
Speaking to The Herald on the eve of the Scottish Greens’ party conference in Edinburgh, he added: “But it’s also incredibly exciting.
“It’s a chance, instead of making speeches about demanding more, it’s a chance to be the people who challenge ourselves to deliver more.”
Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a referendum in the first half of this parliamentary term, Covid permitting.
Asked if the Greens were on the same page, Mr Harvie said: “The Greens and the SNP both committed to a referendum in this session of the Scottish Parliament in our manifestos.
“The SNP’s manifesto said they would like it to be in the first half of the parliament.
“If that timescale can be achieved, I’ll be happy about that.
“The most important thing is the democratic principle that this is a decision for the people of Scotland to make.
“I think people right across Scotland, whichever way they voted last time, recognise that this is a question that remains unresolved, particularly in the light of Brexit and in the light of a UK Government whose response to the biggest fuel price spike we’ve seen in many, many years is to impose the biggest welfare cut since the creation of the welfare state.
“These are perverse decisions that are going to harm so many people throughout the UK but including in Scotland, and there’s so little that Scotland is able to do to protect itself from those vindictive decisions.
“So the democratic choice has to be with the people of Scotland and that principle, I think, is more important than the precise timing of when the referendum happens.”
Asked how likely he thought a referendum was, Mr Harvie said: “I’m quite sure that another referendum is coming and I’m very confident that we can make a case that will convince a clear majority of people in Scotland that independence is the best course for our country.
“As I say, I’m much more interested in getting into the substance of that debate than I am about the precise timing.”