Sunday

4th Dec 2016

Scotland rattles sabre on independence

  • "The case for independence will have to be made and won," said the Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The Scottish government all but launched the campaign for a second independence referendum on Thursday (13 October), when first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that a bill for a vote would be published next week.

"I am determined that Scotland will have the ability to reconsider the question of independence - and to do so before the UK leaves the EU - if that is necessary to protect our country's interests," Sturgeon told delegates at her Scottish National Party (SNP) conference in Glasgow.

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The bill will first be put to consultation. Sturgeon gave no timeline for a vote.

She said that if a new referendum were to be held, after a first vote two years ago, it would be "a new debate - not a rerun of 2014." At the time 55 percent of voters chose to remain part of the UK.

"The case for independence will have to be made and won," she said.

The Scottish leader, who said she was "serious about doing what it takes to protect Scotland's interests," is in effect putting pressure on British prime minister Theresa May to change her positions on Brexit, amid talks of "hard Brexit" that have led the pound to decade-low levels.

The decision to launch a new independence process comes a week after May seemed to deny Scotland a say in the preparation of the UK Brexit negotiating position.

May told her Conservative Party conference that the UK would negotiate its EU exit and leave the EU "as one United Kingdom" and warned against "divisive nationalists" trying to "undermine" and "drive apart" the UK.

Talks of Scotland's independence were revived by the EU referendum on 23 June, when 62 percent of Scottish voters voted to remain in the EU while Brexit won with 51.9 percent UK-wide.

Immediately after the vote, Sturgeon warned that she would organise a referendum if Scotland's interest were threatened by Brexit.

In July, May and Sturgeon agreed that the British government would trigger article 50, the EU clause on the exit procedure, only after all British entities agree on a common position.

Campaigning 'right now'

"Last week, we heard from the Prime Minister a disregard for Scotland's democratic voice that was reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher," Sturgeon said in her speech on Thursday, adding that May's stance "belong[ed] in another century."

"Scotland didn't choose to be in this situation - your party put us here," she said, directly addressing May.

"In 2014, you told us Scotland was an equal partner in the UK. Well, the moment has come to prove it," she said.

Referring to the so-called "hard Brexit" that the May government has been suggesting recently, Sturgeon said that "a UK out of the single market - isolated, inward looking, haemorrhaging jobs, investment and opportunities - will not be the same country that Scotland voted to stay part of in 2014."

Also speaking at the SNP conference, the party's new deputy leader Angus Robertson called on members to start campaigning "right now".

"We are very close to independence," he said.

According to an opinion poll published by the Scottish daily The Herald on Thursday, 47 percent of Scots are opposed to having another independence referendum, with 38 percent in favour.

The poll also showed that among people opposed to a new vote, 12 percent would change their mind in case of "hard Brexit".

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