Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday added a new dimension to the Brexit process by announcing plans to trigger another referendum on independence – the second since September 2014 – but holding it will ultimately have to be agreed by London.
The 2014 referendum had resulted in a 55% ‘No’ vote. However, the ruling Scottish National Party is keen to continue its membership of the European Union and access to the single market. The second referendum is sought between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.
Scotland – one of the four nations in the United Kingdom – had voted 62% to remain in the June 2016 referendum on membership of the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated her strong opposition to holding another referendum, setting the stage for a London-Edinburgh face-off along with developments between London and Brussels on Brexit talks in the coming months.
Sturgeon said in a speech in Edinburgh that Scotland’s interests needed to be protected as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the EU. She revealed that May’s January decision to leave the single market was taken without consulting Scotland.
Sturgeon announced that next week she will initiate the process to legislate on the second referendum in the Scottish Parliament, and then seek London’s approval for the same. It will then need to be approved by both house of parliament.
Sturgeon said Scotland stood at a “hugely important crossroads”, and added: “A choice of whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit, or to become an independent country able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the UK and our own relationship with Europe.”
She added: “The Scottish government’s mandate for offering this choice is beyond doubt. So next week I will seek the approval of the Scottish Parliament to open discussions with the UK government on the details of a Section 30 order - the procedure that will enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum.”
It was important, Sturgeon said, that “Scotland is able to exercise the right to choose our own future at a time when the options are clearer than they are now, but before it is too late to decide on our own path.”
But she said it was important to be “frank about the challenges we face and clear about the opportunities independence will give us to secure our relationship with Europe, build a stronger and more sustainable economy and create a fairer society.”