The Scottish National Party (SNP) government in Scotland on Thursday published a draft bill for a second independence referendum, to be held if Scottish interests are not protected in the London-directed process to leave the European Union.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had promised the bill during last week’s party conference, amid apprehensions in Scotland that it will lose access to the European single market after Brexit along with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Scotland voted 62% to 38% in favour of remaining in the EU in the June 23 referendum. The SNP government insists it will do all that is necessary to protect its economic and other interests in the Brexit situation, including holding the second independence referendum.
The 2014 referendum saw voters reject independence by 55% to 45%, but SNP believes the Brexit vote will prompt greater support for independence. The draft bill is now open for public consultation.
The British parliament in London and the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh will need to approve another independence referendum before it is held. Some senior SNP figures have reportedly cautioned Sturgeon against “rushing into” the second referendum.
Sturgeon said in the consultation document’s foreword: “We will put forward constructive proposals that will both protect Scotland’s interests and give an opportunity for the UK government to demonstrate that Scotland is indeed an equal partner.
“But if it becomes clear that it is only through independence that Scotland’s interests can be protected, then the people of Scotland must have the ability to reconsider that question, and to do so before the UK leaves the EU.”
The planned second referendum is opposed by the Conservative and Labour parties in Scotland. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said her party will fight proposals for the second referendum “every step of the way”.
She said: “Instead of using Brexit to further her own political ambitions, Nicola Sturgeon should be working closely with the UK government to address the risks and explore the opportunities this decision creates for industries and sectors across Scotland.”