Scot­land may vote again on British ties

Leader says na­tion be­ing dragged from EU by Brexit move.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Jill Law­less and Gre­gory Katz

Scot­land’s leader LON­DON — de­liv­ered a shock twist to Bri­tain’s EU exit drama on Monday, an­nounc­ing that she will seek author­ity to hold a new in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum in the next two years be­cause Bri­tain is drag­ging Scot­land out of the EU against its will.

First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon said she would move quickly to give vot­ers a new chance to leave the United King­dom be­cause Scot­land was be­ing forced into a “hard Brexit” that it didn’t sup­port. Bri­tons de­cided in a June 23 ref­er­en­dum to leave the EU, but Scots voted by 62 to 38 per­cent to re­main.

Scot­land must not be “taken down a path that we do not want to go down with­out a choice,” Stur­geon said.

The move drew a quick re­buke from Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who said a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum would be hugely dis­rup­tive and was not jus­ti­fied be­cause ev­i­dence shows most Scot­tish vot­ers op­pose a new in­de­pen­dence vote.

May ac­cused Stur­geon’s Scot­tish Na­tional Party of po­lit­i­cal “tun­nel vi­sion” and called the ref­er­en­dum “deeply re­gret­table.”

“It sets Scot­land on a course for more un­cer­tainty and divi­sion,” she said.

Stur­geon spoke in Ed­in­burgh be­fore Bri­tain’s Par­lia­ment ap­proved a Brexit bill that will al­low the U.K. to start the for­mal with­drawal from the EU within days. May plans to trig­ger the twoyear exit process by the end of March.

Stur­geon said she would ask the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment next week to start the process of call­ing a ref­er­en­dum, to be held be­tween the fall of 2018 and the spring of 2019. She said by then, de­tails of Bri­tain’s post-Brexit deal with the EU would be clear and Scot­tish vot­ers would be able to make “an in­formed choice.”

The British gov­ern­ment must agree be­fore a legally bind­ing ref­er­en­dum can be held. It didn’t say Monday whether it would do so, but said an in­de­pen­dence bal­lot “would be di­vi­sive and cause huge eco­nomic un­cer­tainty at the worst pos­si­ble time.”

In a 2014 ref­er­en­dum, Scot­tish vot­ers re­jected in­de­pen­dence by a mar­gin of 55 per­cent to 45 per­cent. But Stur­geon said that the U.K.’s de­ci­sion to leave the EU had brought about a “ma­te­rial change of cir­cum­stances.”

Stur­geon said that she had sought com­pro­mise with May’s gov­ern­ment, but had been met with a “brick wall of in­tran­si­gence.”

Stur­geon has been seek­ing a deal that would al­low Scot­land to stay in the Euro­pean sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union.

FRANK AUGSTEIN / AP 2016

Ni­cola Stur­geon, the first min­is­ter of Scot­land, says she will move quickly to give vot­ers a new chance to leave the United King­dom be­cause her na­tion is feel­ing the ef­fects of a “hard Brexit” that it did not sup­port and is drag­ging it from the EU.

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