Tuesday 21 November 2017

Brexit pushes Scotland toward second vote on independence

In her announcement, Ms Sturgeon said: “If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as the EU and the single market then it is clear that our voice can be ignored at any time and on any issue.” (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
In her announcement, Ms Sturgeon said: “If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as the EU and the single market then it is clear that our voice can be ignored at any time and on any issue.” (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Jon Stone

Nicola Sturgeon blamed the UK's lack of compromise over Brexit as she announced moves to hold a second referendum on independence yesterday.

The First Minister made the announcement in a speech at Bute House, as MPs in Westminster prepared to give Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50 and begin Brexit negotiations.

She said the UK Government had "not moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement" with the Scottish Government over Brexit and that even a good deal would be "significantly inferior" to the status quo. Ms May, however, accused Ms Sturgeon of playing "games" and the SNP of having "tunnel vision".

In her announcement, Ms Sturgeon said: "If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as the EU and the single market then it is clear that our voice can be ignored at any time and on any issue."

The First Minister said the vote had to be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 -- before it was "too late" but after "the terms of Brexit are known". The First Minister says she will apply to the UK Government to authorise the referendum but that it should respect the will of the Scottish Parliament.

Under the so-called "Section 30 order" used to a call a referendum the UK Parliament must authorise a poll - meaning Ms Sturgeon's call could be blocked by Theresa May.

She added: "The option of no change is no longer available. But we will give the Scottish people a choice about the kind of change we want. I believe that it would be wrong for Scotland to be taken down a path that it has no control over regardless of the consequences for our economy, for our society, for our place in the world, for our very sense of who we are as a country. That would be wrong, and therefore my judgement is that we should have that choice," she said.

"I believe that in a referendum the Scottish people will opt for independence, but that will be the choice of the Scottish people and I've been very clear that that will be an informed choice."

The SNP won the Scottish Parliament elections last year on a manifesto that explicitly said another referendum was an option if Scotland was "taken out of the EU against our will".

Scotland voted by 62 to 38 per cent to stay in the European Union while the UK as a whole voted out.

Theresa May has also confirmed that she will take Britain out of the single market - one of the "red lines" previously set by Ms Sturgeon for another vote.

The SNP's 2016 manifesto said: "We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people."

Reacting to Ms Sturgeon's announcement, Theresa May said: "The tunnel vision that the SNP has shown today is deeply regrettable. It sets Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division, creating huge uncertainty.

Read More: Brexit hits UK jobs as hiring confidence dives

"This is at a time when the Scottish people, the majority of the Scottish people, do not want a second independence referendum.

Instead of playing politics with the future of our country the Scottish government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people of Scotland. Politics is not a game."

The first referendum on independence was held in September 2014 and was won by the unionist side by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Meanwhile, the British Government has won the first of two key votes in the Lords as its Brexit Bill moved a major step forward towards becoming law.

A Liberal Democrat move to reinsert an amendment unilaterally guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals living in the UK was rejected by 274 votes to 135, Government majority 139.

Earlier MPs cleared the way for Theresa May to formally start talks on Britain's divorce deal by overturning amendments previously passed by peers.

The House of Commons voted to reject two changes made in the Lords to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which gives the prime minister the power to choose when to begin the two-year Brexit talks.

MPs voted against a proposal to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK within three months by 335 votes to 287, majority 48.

They then voted against an amendment designed to give Parliament a "meaningful" vote on the final deal, by 331 votes to 286, majority 45.

Irish Independent

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