SCOT­LAND MPs TO VOTE ON IN­DE­PEN­DENCE BID

Law­mak­ers to ignore Bri­tish PM’s over­tures on eve of Brexit

New Straits Times - - World -

ED­IN­BURGH

JJOHN COLLINS, Whit­sun­days govt coun­cil mem­ber, Queens­land

UST a day be­fore Bri­tain kick-starts Brexit pro­ceed­ings, the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment is ex­pected to dis­miss Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s over­tures and back calls for a fresh in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

Law­mak­ers here are due to vote to­day on Scot­tish leader Ni­cola Stur­geon’s bid for a new ref­er­en­dum, de­spite the prime min­is­ter’s last-minute ap­peals.

The Scot­tish vote had been sched­uled for last Wed­nes­day but was post­poned af­ter the ter­ror at­tack near the Bri­tish par­lia­ment in Lon­don.

The at­tack has not, how­ever, put the brakes on Bri­tain’s Euro­pean Union di­vorce.

The Brexit vote last year has spurred the in­de­pen­dence cam­paign of Stur­geon, head of the rul­ing Scot­tish Na­tional Party (SNP), who ar­gued that Scot­land was be­ing forced out of the Euro­pean bloc against its will.

Both Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land voted to re­main in the EU, but they were out­num­bered by vot­ers in Eng­land and Wales.

Stur­geon and May met in Scot­land on Mon­day, with the prime min­is­ter re­it­er­at­ing that “now is not the time” for a ref­er­en­dum and de­scrib­ing the four na­tions of the United King­dom as an “un­stop­pable force”.

The SNP leader has sug­gested an in­de­pen­dence vote should be held by spring 2019 at the lat­est — be­fore Bri­tain leaves the EU — although af­ter win­ning the back­ing of Scot­tish Par­lia­ment, she needs ap­proval from Lon­don for a ref­er­en­dum to take place.

Re­ject­ing such a re­quest would be politically risky for May, whose gov­ern­ment is also try­ing to pre­vent the col­lapse of the pow­er­shar­ing ar­range­ment which gov­erns North­ern Ire­land.

The North­ern Ire­land ex­ec­u­tive col­lapsed in Jan­uary fol­low­ing a dis­pute be­tween the two main par­ties, the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party and Ir­ish na­tion­al­ists Sinn Fein, which failed to reach a new power-shar­ing deal.

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has ex­tended the talks and, if a res­o­lu­tion is not reached, fresh elec­tions could be called or Lon­don could re­sume di­rect rule over North­ern Ire­land.

De­spite May’s as­ser­tion that she will seek the best Brexit deal for all of Bri­tain — in­clud­ing Scot­land — she has failed to con­vince the SNP, which has warned of the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of leav­ing.

The eco­nomic un­cer­tainty of Scot­land out­side the UK was a fac­tor in vot­ers re­ject­ing in­de­pen­dence in a 2014 ref­er­en­dum, but the SNP claims break­ing away from the Euro­pean sin­gle market would cost Scot­land tens of thou­sands of jobs. AFP

WED­NES­DAY, MARCH 29, 2017

the year Great Bri­tain was formed, com­pris­ing Eng­land, Scot­land, Wales and North­ern

Ire­land

AP PIC

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May (right) and Scot­land’s First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon meet­ing in Glas­gow on Mon­day

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