Sturgeon puts plans for second Scottish independence vote on hold
First minister waiting for clarity on Brexit before proposing another referendum
Scotland’s devolved government has shelved its immediate plans to hold a second independence referendum until after the terms of Britain’s exit from the United Kingdom are clear, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday.
The Scottish parliament in March backed Ms Sturgeon’s bid to hold a new referendum in 2018 or early 2019, but British prime minister Theresa May had refused to enter into discussions on the proposal.
“We will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately,” Ms Sturgeon said, adding that she would still aim to offer a new vote on secession after it was clear what Britain’s decision to leave the European Union meant.
Scots voted against independence by 55 to 45 per cent in 2014 but Scottish Nationalist Party leader Ms Sturgeon has argued the Brexit vote changed circumstances because Scots voted overwhelmingly against leaving the EU.
However, she had been under pressure to put off a new referendum because of her party’s weak performance in a national election earlier this month.
She told the Scottish assembly she had listened carefully to those who were concerned about Brexit but had not wanted another independence vote immediately. She said a choice still needed to be offered, but the timing needed to be more cautious.
She insisted on Tuesday that the Scottish government “remains committed strongly to the principle of giving Scotland a choice at the end of this process”.
They will also work to build “maximum support” for the proposals it set out at the end of 2016 – which argued for both the UK and Scotland to remain part of the European single market with “substantial new powers” for Holyrood.
Ms Sturgeon was also clear that the Scottish Government has a mandate to hold a second independence referendum in this Holyrood term.
The SNP won the election at Holyrood in 2016 with a commitment in its manifesto that there could be another ballot if there were a material change of circumstances from September 2014 – such as Scotland being removed from the EU against its wishes. The Scottish Parliament has also voted in favour of seeking the authority from Westminster to hold a referendum.
“By any normal standard of democracy, that mandate is beyond question,” Ms Sturgeon insisted.