Scottish Parliament backs bid for new independence referendum
The Scottish Parliament voted on Tuesday to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's bid to hold a new independence referendum in late 2018 or 2019, once the terms of the UK's exit from the European Union have become clearer.
The Edinburgh assembly's vote, which was widely expected, gives Sturgeon a mandate to seek permission from the British parliament in London to press forward with preparations for a referendum.
Scotland voted against independence in a 2014 referendum, but Sturgeon argues circumstances have changed since then because the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union while Scotland voted strongly to remain in the bloc. The motion, put forward by Sturgeon, was passed by 69 votes in favour and 59 votes against in the Scottish parliament.
Sturgeon said the move is needed to allow Scotland to decide what path to follow in the wake of the Brexit vote. But the UK government has already said it will block a referendum until the Brexit process has been completed. Prime Minister Theresa May, who met Sturgeon for talks in Glasgow on Monday, has repeatedly insisted that "now is not the time" for a referendum. Her Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has said that the timescale could include "the Brexit process, the journey of leaving and people being able to understand what the UK's new relationship with the EU is, so they can make an informed choice if there was ever to be another referendum".
Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, told a debate ahead of the Holyrood vote that she was not seeking confrontation with the UK government, and only wanted "sensible discussions".
She said: "My argument is simply this: when the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us, we should have the right to decide the nature of that change. "The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit possibly a very hard Brexit — or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands."
She added: "I hope the UK government will respect the will of this parliament. If it does so, I will enter discussion in good faith and with a willingness to compromise. "However, if it chooses not to do so I will return to the parliament following the Easter recess to set out the steps that the Scottish government will take to progress the will of parliament." The two-day debate in the Scottish Parliament started last week but was suspended as news of the terror attack at Westminster emerged. MSPs were asked to mandate the Scottish government to take forward discussions with the UK government on the details of a section 30 order, which is needed to make a referendum legally binding.
Sturgeon is expected to make the formal request for a section 30 later this week — after May formally starts the Brexit process by triggering Article 50.