Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Monday that she will seek permission to hold a second referendum on breaking away from the United Kingdom, warning that Brexit could cause economic damage to Scotland.
Speaking in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, Sturgeon said she will ask the Scottish parliament next week to begin discussions with the UK government to enable an independence vote. The Scottish parliament is expected to approve her request.
“Scotland stands at a hugely important crossroads. On the eve of Article 50 being triggered, not only is there no UK-wide agreement on the way ahead, the UK Government has not moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement,” the first minister said.
Sturgeon said months of efforts to reach a compromise had failed to produce any results. “If I ruled out a referendum, I would be deciding – completely unilaterally – that Scotland will follow the UK to a hard Brexit come-what-may, no matter how damaging to our economy and our society it turns out to be,” she said.
More than 1.5 million people in Scotland voted ‘Remain’ in last year’s Brexit referendum, or 62 percent to 38 percent with near-record turnout. Remain also won in all 32 council areas, making it the only country in the United Kingdom to achieve a clean sweep for Remain in all areas.
The British government is soon expected to trigger Article 50 to formally start exit negotiations with the European Union. Sturgeon said her proposed referendum should take place between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019, when the terms of the Brexit deal are expected to be finalized.
It is unclear whether UK Prime Minister Theresa May will actively oppose a referendum, but a government spokesman criticized Monday’s announcement.
“Only a little over 2 years ago people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of our United Kingdom … Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time,” the spokesman said. “The Scottish Government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people in Scotland.”
Recent polls have indicated that the country is divided on whether Scotland should break away from the United Kingdom and become an independent country. When the first referendum took place in September 2014, about 55 percent of voters chose to remain in the UK.
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