Scottish lawmakers to hold independence vote on eve of Brexit

Just a day before Britain kick-starts Brexit proceedings, the Scottish parliament is expected to dismiss Prime Minister Theresa May's overtures and back calls for a fresh independence referendum.

AFP March 28, 2017 12:03:11 IST
Scottish lawmakers to hold independence vote on eve of Brexit

Edinburgh: Just a day before Britain kick-starts Brexit proceedings, the Scottish parliament is expected to dismiss Prime Minister Theresa May's overtures and back calls for a fresh independence referendum.

Lawmakers in Edinburgh are due to vote on Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon's bid for a new referendum, despite the prime minister's last-minute appeals.

The Scottish vote had been scheduled for last Wednesday but was postponed after the terror attack near the British parliament in London, the same day, in which four people were killed and dozens more injured.

Scottish lawmakers to hold independence vote on eve of Brexit

Theresa May. Reuters

The attack has not, however, put the brakes on Britain's EU divorce, with May vowing to stick to her timetable of invoking Article 50 of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday and thus triggering two years of Brexit negotiations.

The Brexit vote last year has spurred the independence campaign of Sturgeon, head of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), who argues that Scotland is being forced out of the European bloc against its will.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, but they were outnumbered by voters in England and Wales who backed Brexit.

Sturgeon and May met in Scotland on Monday, with the prime minister reiterating that "now is not the time" for a referendum and describing the four nations of the United Kingdom as an "unstoppable force".

The SNP leader has suggested an independence vote should be held by spring 2019 at the latest — before Britain leaves the EU — although after winning the backing of Scottish parliament she needs approval from London for a referendum to take place.

Rejecting such a request would be politically risky for May, whose government is also trying to prevent the collapse of the power-sharing arrangement which governs Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland executive collapsed in January following a dispute between the two main parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and Irish nationalists Sinn Fein, which failed to reach a new power-sharing deal by a 1500 GMT Monday deadline.

The British government has extended the talks and, if a resolution is not reached, fresh elections could be called or London could resume direct rule over Northern Ireland.

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