Scotland seeks to exit U.K.

A saltire flag and Union Jack flutter in the wind on March 9, 2017 in Glasgow,Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon has said in an interview that the autumn of 2018 would be a common sense date for a second Scottish Independence referendum.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will ask the Scottish Parliament for authority next week for a second referendum on Scottish independence. Criticising the “brick wall of intransigence” that her government had faced as it sought to find a deal that protected Scotland’s interests as Britain prepared to leave the EU, Ms. Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, said that Scotland needed to be given the choice about the “kind of country we want to be”, between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019.

“Brexit has made change inevitable… the choice I believe Scotland should have should be what kind of change we want,” she said in Edinburgh on Monday.

While the 2014 referendum on independence was pegged as a “once in a generation” vote by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, the issue of independence resurfaced in the wake of last June’s referendum, when Scotland voted overwhelmingly (62%) to remain in the EU.

In December, the Scottish government published a white paper “Scotland’s Place in Europe” calling for the U.K. to either remain in the single market or commit to an outcome that would enable Scotland to remain within it, which Ms. Sturgeon said represented a “significant compromise” on the part of her government.

“U.K. membership of the single market was ruled out with no prior consultation with the Scottish government, or indeed with other devolved administrations — leaving us facing not just Brexit, but a hard Brexit,” she said on Monday.

Ms. Sturgeon’s announcement comes sooner than expected, marking a dramatic twist of events as the government prepares to trigger Brexit as early as Tuesday. The bill that would authorise the government to trigger talks on leaving the EU has returned to the House of Commons and was set to be voted on Monday evening.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party.   | Photo Credit: AP

Debating the details

Ms. Sturgeon said that she would be calling for the vote in the devolved legislature next week that would enable her government to agree details of the procedure with Westminster, which would enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum. She said the precise question to be put to the people should be up to the Scottish Parliament.

She added that the suggested timetable — between 2018 and 2019 — was to ensure that voters were able to make as informed a choice as possible, as the shape of the Brexit deal became clear. Leaving it to after Britain left the EU would make it difficult for Scotland that could face a lengthy period outside the EU. Any effort by Westminster to block it taking place would be like the government attempting to attempts to “puncture Scotland’s lifeboat”, having sunk the ship.

While the Westminster Parliament could scupper those plans for a referendum, Ms. Sturgeon has previously warned that that would be “disastrous”. On Monday she noted the government’s previous stance, which was that the referendum should be “made in Scotland, by the people of Scotland”.

A second referendum would be “divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time”, the U.K. government said in a statement on Monday.

While Labour would not block a move to hold the referendum should it get the approval of the Scottish Parliament, “Labour will oppose independence because it’s not in the interest of any part of the country to break up the U.K.,” said Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

While 55.3% of Scottish voters opted to remain in the U.K. in the 2014 independence referendum, recent polls have suggested that gap has narrowed. One poll by Ipsos-Mori published earlier this month found that 50% said they would support independence.


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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 7:56:09 PM |

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