Scottish lawmakers have backed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s bid for a new referendum on independence from the UK. The vote gives Sturgeon a mandate to seek permission from Westminster to go ahead with the vote.
Scotland’s parliament on Tuesday backed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s calls for another independence referendum by a majority of 69 to 59.
The vote allows Sturgeon to make a formal request to the British government to hold a referendum and comes a day before Prime Minister Theresa May formally launches Brexit proceedings.
Last year’s Brexit vote in June resulted in a significant strain between the UK’s constituencies, with England and Wales voting to leave the European Union and Scotland and Northern Ireland choosing to remain.
Sturgeon has said she wants to hold an independence plebiscite in late 2018 or early 2019, when the terms of the UK’s divorce from the EU become clear.
However May’s office has already indicated that it will reject the bid, saying it would be unfair to the people of Scotland to ask them to make a crucial decision without the necessary information about our future relationship with Europe, or what an independent Scotland would look like.
Westminster’s interjection could fuel Scotland’s independence movement. Sturgeon, meanwhile, has repeatedly said it would be anti-democratic for Westminster to stand in the way if Scotland’s elected government chose to hold an independence vote.
Scotland voted against independence in 2014 by 55 to 45 percent. However, Sturgeon has argued that a material change in circumstances following the Brexit vote justifies a second vote.
‘Scotland, UK at a crossroads’
Sturgeon told the Edinburgh assembly at the start of Tuesday’s debate that “Scotland, like the rest of the UK, stands at a crossroads.”
“When Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered tomorrow, change for our country becomes inevitable,” she said. “There will be an impact on trade, on investment and on living standards, and an impact on the very nature of the society we live in.”
The 2014 referendum was largely decided by the economic uncertainty of what an independent Scotland would look like. However, Sturgeon has claimed that breaking away from the European Single Market would cost Scotland tens of thousands of jobs.
Both Sturgeon and May saw the economic hands strengthened this week. Exploration firm Hurricane Energy announced on Monday that it had made the “largest undeveloped discovery” of oil in British waters, just off the Scottish Shetland Islands.
Meanwhile, Qatar announced that it was investing some £5 billion ($6.23 billion, 5.8 billion euros) into the UK economy over five years, easing fears that investors might ditch the UK once it leaves the European single market.
dm/jm (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)