Brexit crisis fuels Scotland's battle for independence

Published 19.01.2019 00:00

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Thursday she expects to provide more clarity on the timing of a possible new Scottish independence referendum in the coming weeks, regardless of whether the time period in which Britain leaves the European Union is extended.

Sturgeon, leader of the left-wing secessionist Scottish National Party (SNP), which runs a minority government in the devolved Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, has been under pressure from her nationalist party supporters to set another vote on independence since Britain became mired in the complexities of leaving the European Union. She has been indicating for months that she would provide clarity on the secession issue once the outcome of Brexit was clear. Asked to confirm if this would be in coming weeks regardless of the timing on Brexit being pushed back by an extension to the Article 50 negotiation period, she replied "yes."

"It could be that the extension of Article 50 could be a reprieve of Brexit and not a solution; so yes, there is water to go under the bridge in a matter of weeks, and when it has done so, I will make my views on a choice on independence clear," she told the Scottish Parliament.

Relations between Edinburgh's devolved government and Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government have been strained since the June 23 Brexit referendum. While 52 percent of U.K. voters opted to quit the European Union, within Scotland, 62 percent voted for Britain to stay in the 28-country bloc. Immediately after the Brexit vote, Scottish First Minister Sturgeon said a second independence referendum was now on the table; however, any binding vote on Scottish secession must take place via a so-called Section 30 order granted by Britain's Parliament. In 2017, May declined to give permission for such a vote while Brexit was going on.

In Sept. 2014, Scots voted 55 percent against Scotland becoming an independent country and leaving the U.K. Support for independence is still at around 45 percent, though polls show increasing Scottish opposition to May's Brexit plans.

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