Nicola Sturgeon claims mandate for Scottish independence vote

Theresa May accuses Scotland’s first minister of ‘constitutional game-playing’

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon outlines plans for a second referendum on independence as British prime minister Theresa May looks to trigger article 50 and begin the process of Brexit


Nicola Sturgeon has demanded that the timing of a second Scottish independence referendum should be determined by the Scottish parliament and not by Theresa May’s government in Westminster.

Speaking after the Scottish cabinet backed her call for a fresh referendum, the first minister said the vote must be held before the UK leaves the European Union.

“The Scottish government has a cast-iron democratic mandate for an independence referendum, and the vote must take place within a timeframe to allow an informed choice to be made – when the terms of Brexit are clear but before the UK leaves the European Union or shortly afterwards,” Ms Sturgeon said.

In that way, with the vote taking placed between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019, the independence prospectus which we will offer people can be contrasted directly with the Brexit deal which the UK government will have negotiated by the start of that period,” she said.

Scottish approval

The Scottish parliament will vote next week on Ms Sturgeon’s proposal.

Although the Scottish Nationalists do not have a majority there, the referendum is likely to be approved with the support of the Scottish Greens, who also favour independence.

For the referendum to be binding, it also needs the approval of the Conservative government in Westminster, which would like to delay a vote on independence until after Britain leaves the EU.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, the prime minister claimed that a referendum would undermine the unity Britain needed during negotiations with the EU.

“This is not a moment to play politics or create uncertainty and division. It is a moment to bring our country together; to honour the will of the British people and to shape for them a brighter future and a better Britain.”

Ms May rejected Ms Sturgeon’s accusation that she had failed to accommodate Scotland’s interests in her approach to leaving the EU, insisting that she was working closely with all the devolved administrations.

“It is important that we keep the union of the United Kingdom together,” she said.

“There is much that binds us, and I do not want to see anybody doing constitutional game-playing with the future of the United Kingdom.”

Poll conditions

In response to a question from the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, the prime minister also rejected calls for a Border poll in Northern Ireland, insisting that the conditions for such a vote were not in place.

“Obviously there is a set of circumstances, but the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has looked at this issue and it is not right to have a Border poll at this stage,” Ms May said.

“What we should all be focusing on is bringing the parties together to ensure that we can continue to see the devolved administration in Northern Ireland working, as they have done, in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

“We want to see that devolved administration being formed,” she said, “and that is what all the parties should be looking for at the moment.”