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March 14, 2017

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Sturgeon seeks independence vote ahead of UK’s EU exit

SCOTTISH First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday called for another independence referendum to be held in late 2018 or early 2019, once the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union have become clearer.

“If Scotland is to have a real choice — when the terms of Brexit are known but before it is too late to choose our own course — then that choice must be offered between the autumn of next year, 2018, and the spring of 2019,” Sturgeon told reporters.

Her demand comes as British Prime Minister Theresa May is poised to launch the Brexit process, something opposed by most Scots in last June’s vote on leaving the bloc.

Ultimately it is the UK parliament — where May commands a majority — which makes the call on whether Scotland can hold a second referendum.

But a refusal to approve such a vote could provoke a constitutional crisis while potentially stoking discord in Scotland.

May chided Sturgeon over the referendum call, saying her Scottish National Party had “tunnel vision” on breaking away from the United Kingdom.

“The tunnel vision that SNP has shown today is deeply regrettable,” May said. “Instead of playing politics with the future of our country, the Scottish government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people of Scotland. Politics is not a game.”

While Sturgeon said the “door was still open” to talking to the UK government, she was not expecting a change of tack over Brexit. “I cannot pretend that a compromise looks remotely likely given the hardline response so far,” she said.

The results of the June 23 Brexit referendum called the future of the UK into question because voters in England and Wales chose to leave the EU, while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.

May has accused Sturgeon’s SNP of sacrificing not only the UK but also Scotland with its “obsession” with securing independence.

Scots rejected independence by 55-45 percent in a referendum in September 2014, though the vote energized Scottish politics and support for the SNP has surged since then.

“Only a little over two years ago people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of our United Kingdom in a referendum which the Scottish Government defined as a ‘once in a generation’ vote,” a spokesman for May said in a statement.

“The evidence clearly shows that a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum. Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time.”

Sturgeon has said she wanted Scotland to have its own deal as part of the UK’s Brexit agreement to maintain Scotland’s access to the single market. But yesterday she said her efforts had hit a “brick wall of intransigence” in London.

Sterling rose after Sturgeon said the earliest date for a new Scottish independence referendum was in the autumn of next year. British government bond prices fell.

Support for independence has been rising in Scotland. A poll last week saw a 50-50 split.

Asked if she believed she could win a second independence vote, Sturgeon replied: “Yes I do. Absolutely, I believe that.”


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