Nicola Sturgeon abandons plans for indyref2 before spring 2019
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament the FM said she would “reset” the timetable for holding a referendum by spring 2019
Nicola Sturgeon - image credit: Holyrood
Nicola Sturgeon has abandoned plans to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence before spring 2019.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament the First Minister said that although she believed Scots should get a vote on independence at the end of the Brexit process, she would “reset” the timetable, unveiled in March, for holding a referendum by spring 2019.
The FM had said she would “reflect” on the general election result earlier this month, including whether or not to press on with plans for a second referendum.
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She said: “I am confirming today that having listened and reflected the Scottish Government will reset the plan I set out on March the 13th. We will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately. Instead we will, in good faith, redouble our efforts and put our shoulder to the wheel in influencing Brexit talks in a way that protects Scotland’s interests.
“We will seek to build maximum support around the proposals set out in the paper we published in December, Scotland’s Place in Europe, to keep us in the single market with substantial new powers for this parliament.
Sturgeon added: “At the end of this period of negotiation with the EU, likely to be around next autumn, when the terms of Brexit will be clearer, we will come to parliament to set out our judgement on the best way forward at that time.”
In March the Scottish Parliament voted by 69-59 in favour of proposals, introduced by the SNP, to formally request from the UK government the powers to stage a fresh independence vote at around the time Britain leaves the EU, in spring 2019.
But Theresa May ruled out holding a second vote in the near future, saying “now is not the time”.
Sturgeon came under criticism from opposition parties in the chamber, with Tory leader Ruth Davidson calling on her to rule out the prospect of a second vote for the rest of the parliamentary term.
Ruth Davidson said: “The issue we have had this last year has been with a First Minister who tried to use the UK’s decision to leave the EU to impose another referendum on Scotland at the earliest opportunity.
“No once in a generation, no Edinburgh Agreement of respecting the result, just a single-visioned drive to the line for Nicola Sturgeon to try to secure her place in history.
“Today’s statement fails to give people any assurance that the First Minister has been listening. Instead, she appears to be in denial about her mistakes over this last year and, as a result, is leaking credibility and confidence in her leadership by the hour.
“Her response hasn’t been to reflect. It’s been simply to lash out at the UK Government at every opportunity and to sing the same old songs in the same old tune.”
Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the prospect of a second referendum is “dead”.
She said: “The First Minister says she has heard the views of the people, that she’s refledted on the result of the general election, and yet her incredulous conclusion is to double down and continue her campaign for independence.
“The truth is, the threat of an unwanted second independence referendum is dead, and this didn’t happen because Nicola Sturgeon wanted it to – the people of Scotland have taken that decision for her. But the First Minister is digging her heels in, putting her fingers in her ears and pressing on regardless. She is just not listening.”
The FM said she had spoken to Yes supporters, as well as people who voted No but are sympathetic to Scottish independence, and had decided to abandon her previous timetable for a second vote.
She said voters were concerned by uncertainty over Brexit and were tired of making big political decisions.
The First Minister said people wanted greater clarity about Brexit to emerge first, and to be able to measure that up against clarity about "the options Scotland would have for securing a different relationship with Europe".
She said: “The mandate we have is beyond doubt, but deciding exactly how and when to exercise it is a matter of judgement, and it is a judgement which must be made in the interests of the country as a whole. That is what I have been thinking carefully about.”
Instead the party would focus on influencing the Brexit process and trying to retain access to the single market, Sturgeon said.
Sturgeon said: “It remains my view and indeed the position of this government that at the end of the Brexit process the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country. Indeed the implications of Brexit are potentially so far reaching that as they become clearer I think people will increasingly demand that choice. We face a Brexit we did not vote for.”
Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie warned that delaying a second referendum would stop Scotland being able to vote until after the country left the single market.
He said: “Scotland has not consented to being taken out of the EU and certainly not by a Tory government we did not elect. That Tory government’s refusal to acknowledge this means that the people of Scotland must have their right to choose respected. I’m glad that the First Minister says she is committed to that principle, but if a Bill for a referendum is shelved until late next year, there is no chance that the people will have the opportunity to make their choice until after we’ve been dragged out of Europe, and out of the single market too. That means lost jobs, lost rights and lost opportunities.”
The two Scottish Green co-conveners wrote to the FM urging her to resist calls to postpone a second independence referendum.
But Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP echoed calls for Sturgeon to rule out a second vote.
He said: “The First Minister has had a long hard think about her plans for independence. And after that long hard think the First Minister has concluded that the First Minister should call another independence referendum at a time of the First Minister's choosing. So absolutely nothing has changed.
"The First Minister is still seeking a section 30 order from Westminster which would give her the power to call the referendum whenever she chooses. She has not budged an inch from the position she set out in March.”
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