Scotland demands second independence referendum

29 Mar 17

The Scottish Parliament has formally demanded a second referendum on independence to be held within two years, a day after the prime minister told first minister Nicola Sturgeon that now was not the time.

In a decision postponed in the light of the violent attack on Westminster, MSPs voted by 69 to 59 to request a second referendum before the spring of 2019, so that Scots can choose whether to follow the rest of the UK out of the European Union on the terms negotiated by the UK government.  Under the present devolution settlement, only Westminster can sanction a constitutional referendum.

The vote found the Scottish National Party and Scottish Greens in support of the demand for a so-called IndyRef2, and the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposed.  MSPs also backed a proposal from the Greens for 16- and 17-year olds to have a vote in the referendum.

Sturgeon and her minority SNP government say they called the vote because of what she has called the intransigence of the UK government in refusing to countenance calls for a distinctive Brexit deal for Scotland that would take account of Scottish voters’ decisive 62-38 margin last year in favour of remaining within the EU.

Scottish ministers say that a Scottish white paper last year setting out how Scotland might be able to retain membership of the single European market has been ignored by the UK Government, which appears intent on a so-called “hard” Brexit strategy for all parts of the UK.

A terse meeting in Glasgow on Monday between Sturgeon and Theresa May failed to progress the matter. In its wake, Sturgeon told MSPs: “I hope that the UK government will respect the will of this Parliament. If it does so, I will enter discussion in good faith and with willingness to compromise.

“However, if it chooses not to do so, I will return to the [Scottish] Parliament following the Easter recess to set out the steps that the Scottish Government will take to progress this Parliament’s will.”

In reply, the UK government, while not formally rejecting the request for another referendum, said it was unwilling to consider a Scottish referendum during the Brexit process, and indicated that it was minded to interpret that process as lasting until well after the formal negotiations were over.

 “We don’t have a crystal ball as to how long that process will take,” Scotland Secretary David Mundell, Scotland’s only Tory MP, said. “It may be a journey that involves transitional measures, it may be a journey that involves significant implementation time.”

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

Did you enjoy this article?