Scottish lawmakers back independence on eve of Brexit

2017-03-28 21:05
Nicola Sturgeon. (File, AP)

Nicola Sturgeon. (File, AP)

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Edinburgh - Scotland's parliament voted on Tuesday to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's call for a second independence referendum, another headache for Prime Minister Theresa May as she battles to keep the country united just a day before triggering Brexit.

The vote by lawmakers in Edinburgh was 69 in favour and 59 against despite May's last-minute appeals.

"I hope the UK government will respect the will of this parliament and if it does so I will enter discussion in good faith and with a willingness to compromise," Sturgeon said.

Forced out

Sturgeon will now make a formal request for a referendum but she needs approval from the British government and parliament in London to do so and May has already said that "now is not the time".

May will on Wednesday begin the process of ending Britain's 44-year membership of the European Union by invoking Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, opening two years of negotiations.

Last year's Brexit vote has spurred the independence campaign of Sturgeon, head of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), who argues that Scotland is being forced out of the European bloc against its will.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, but they were outnumbered by voters in England and Wales who backed Brexit.

Most recent polls show support for independence is high but still short of a majority.

A survey by ScotCen published earlier this month showed support at 46% - its highest level since the yearly study began in 1999.

Sturgeon and May met in Scotland on Monday, with the prime minister reiterating that the time was not ripe for a referendum and describing the four nations of the United Kingdom as an "unstoppable force".

The SNP leader has suggested an independence vote should be held by spring 2019 at the latest - before Britain leaves the EU.

Neither leader has expressed a willingness to compromise and the rift is unlikely to end before Article 50 is triggered.

Political stability

Rejecting Sturgeon's request would be politically risky for May, whose government is also trying to prevent the collapse of the power-sharing arrangement which governs Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland executive collapsed in January following a dispute between the two main parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and Irish nationalists Sinn Fein, which failed to reach a new power-sharing deal by a Monday deadline.

The British government has extended the talks and, if a resolution is not reached, fresh elections could be called or London could resume direct rule over Northern Ireland.

"In the absence of devolved government, it is ultimately for the United Kingdom government to provide for political stability and good governance," Northern Ireland Minister James Brokenshire told parliament on Tuesday.


Read more on:    theresa may  |  nicola sturgeon  |  scotland  |  brexit

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