Scottish Parliament requests independence referendum
Nicola Sturgeon: vote ‘must be respected’, but UK Government spokesperson says there will be no negotiation
The Scottish Parliament has voted to demand the powers to hold a referendum on Scottish independence.
After three days of debate SNP and Green MSPs backed a motion to request a section 30 order from the UK Government, granting the right to hold a referendum in Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon had said she wanted to hold the vote between next autumn and spring 2019, but Theresa May has indicated she may not allow the vote to go ahead before negotiations with Europe on the UK’s exit from the EU are concluded.
However MSPs voted 69-59 to back the plan, while amendments from the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were defeated.
The vote was due on Thursday but proceedings were delayed after the attack on Westminster last week.
Sturgeon said the will of the Scottish Parliament was clear, but opposition leaders argued there was no appetite for a re-run of the vote in 2014, which saw Scotland reject independence with 55 per cent of the vote.
“Today’s vote must now be respected,” said Sturgeon.
“The mandate for a referendum is beyond question, and it would be democratically indefensible – and utterly unsustainable – to attempt to stand in the way of it.
“We will now act on the mandate given to us by parliament by making a formal approach to the UK Government within the next few days, after Article 50 has been triggered.”
However, a UK Government spokesperson indicated it would not negotiate on Sturgeon's proposed timescale.
“The Prime Minister has been clear that now is not the time for an independence referendum, and we will not be entering into negotiations on the Scottish Government’s proposal," they said.
"At this point, all our focus should be on our negotiations with the European Union, making sure we get the right deal for the whole of the UK. It would be unfair to the people of Scotland to ask them to make a crucial decision without the necessary information about our future relationship with Europe, or what an independent Scotland would look like.
“We have been joined together as one country for more than 300 years. We’ve worked together, we’ve prospered together, we’ve fought wars together, and we have a bright future. At this crucial time we should be working together, not pulling apart.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said her party were “not frightened” to debate independence, “but we are sick of it. And most people in Scotland have had enough too.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale denied the vote reflected the will of the people.
"Eighty-five per cent of the population voted in the last referendum, and we voted decisively to remain in the UK,” she said.
“That’s the will of the people and it should be respected. My message to the First Minister remains unchanged: we are divided enough – do not divide us again."
MSPs also backed a Green amendment calling for European Union citizens and 16 and 17 year olds to have the ability to vote in the referendum.
The party’s MSP Ross Greer said: “It should be our responsibility, as those elected by the people of Scotland – to fight for their right to choose their own future. In a period where 27 other EU nations – and a number of regions – will have their say on Scotland’s future – it is only right that the people who live here have their say as well.”
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