May to Scotland: 'Now is not the time' for referendum
By Eszter Zalan
British prime minister Theresa May said on Thursday (16 March) that "now is not the time" for a second Scottish independence referendum, because it would be unfair to ask people to decide on their future without knowing the exact details of the Brexit deal.
Her comments raised tensions again with Scotland, whose first minister on Monday unexpectedly called for a new independence vote for the end of 2018 or spring 2019. Nicola Sturgeon argued that the UK government is not open to hear Scotland's concerns over Brexit.
The Scottish question has posed a real dilemma for May who is going for a "hard Brexit", meaning giving up membership of the single market, something Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, does not agree with.
The Scottish government is launching the procedure to request a referendum next week, with a vote in parliament taking place on Wednesday, but it will be ultimately up to Westminster to allow the referendum to go ahead.
The war of words continued on Thursday as May said in an interview that "right now we should be working together, not pulling apart".
"We should be working together to get that right deal for Scotland, that right deal for the UK. That's my job as prime minister and so for that reason I say to the SNP - now is not the time," May argued, referring to Sturgeon's Scottish National Party.
"To look at this issue at this time would be unfair because people wouldn't have the necessary information to make such a crucial decision," she added.
Sturgeon responded by saying that she needs to start the procedure now for Scottish people to have the chance to choose a "different path", once the Brexit terms are clear and it is not too late to make a move.
She said on Twitter than by refusing a referendum, May's Conservative party "would effectively be blocking Scotland's right to choose when the Brexit terms clear". That "would be undemocratic", she said, arguing that the Scottish government had "a clear mandate".
She also questioned May's reasoning, saying that if the terms of Brexit are not clear by the autumn of 2018, the UK premier "must think her own timetable will fail".
The Scottish first minister also re-tweeted a post from an MP from the SNP, Callum McCaig, who pointed out that the EU had let the UK have a referendum on its membership. "That's the difference between Scotland's two Unions," McCaig said.
Sturgeon has managed to put pressure on May just days before she invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the official exit procedure from the EU, at the end of the month.
Scotland held an independence referendum in 2014, which resulted in voters choosing to remain part of the United Kingdom.
The EU has said that an independent Scotland would not automatically become an EU member state, and that it would have to re-apply normally for membership.