Scottish official presses for new vote
aberdeen, scotland — Refusal by Britain’s prime minister to discuss an independence referendum would “shatter beyond repair” the United Kingdom’s constitutional structure, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said Saturday.
Sturgeon, speaking at a party meeting, pledged to press on with plans to hold a new Scottish referendum as announced last week, deepening a standoff with the U.K. government.
Sturgeon expects to get authorization from the devolved Scottish Parliament on Wednesday to seek the terms for a new secession vote, aiming for a date once the terms for Brexit are clear but before Britain leaves the European Union.
“To stand in defiance of [Scottish parliamentary authorization] would be for the prime minister to shatter beyond repair any notion of the U.K. as a respectful partnership of equals,” said Sturgeon, who is Scotland’s first minister.
“Scotland’s future will be in Scotland’s hands,” she said.
Scottish voters rejected independence in 2014 by a 10 percentage point margin. But Sturgeon was elected last year on a manifesto that included the possibility of a new independence vote.
Under the U.K.’s constitutional arrangements, Britain’s Parliament needs to sign off on any legally binding vote in Scotland. Prime Minister Theresa May told Sturgeon last week that “now is not the time” for a new choice on independence as divorce talks for the world’s fifth-largest economy with its erstwhile E.U. partners get underway.
Although May did not deny a vote outright, Scottish nationalists predict her words could build support for secession because it will look like she is telling Scotland what to do.
“[May] has time to think again and I hope she does. If her concern is timing then — within reason — I am happy to have that discussion,” Sturgeon said.
The two sides are in a standoff just days before Britain is expected to trigger Article 50 of the E.U.’s Lisbon Treaty and start the complex Brexit procedure.
Last June’s vote to leave the E.U. has altered the political landscape and shaken the ties of the U.K.’s four nations. England, the U.K.’s most populous nation, and Wales voted to leave while the Scots and the Northern Irish wanted to keep their E.U. membership.
Scottish nationalists say the U.K. government has all but ignored their proposals of a bespoke deal for Scotland within Brexit.
“If [May] shows the same condescension and inflexibility, the same tin ear, to other E.U. countries as she has to Scotland, then the Brexit process will hit the rocks,” Sturgeon said.