Scotland may choose to have a second referendum on independence as early as autumn of next year, says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, just as the United Kingdom would anticipate its departure from the European Union.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU by March 2017 and Brexit negotiations between London and Brussels would be firmly underway if Scotland decides to revisit the polls. Brexit divorce proceedings are expected to last as long as two years.
The vote could complicate May’s negotiations with EU leaders, threaten the integrity of the UK at a critical juncture, and piles pressure on May’s government before Brexit meetings begin.
Scotland's first minister
NicolaSturgeon</a> says autumn 2018 would be a "common sense" date for any <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/indyref2?src=hash">#indyref2</a> vote <a href="https://t.co/GrNT2siIw8">https://t.co/GrNT2siIw8</a> <a href="https://t.co/WfGS3QWLra">pic.twitter.com/WfGS3QWLra</a></p>— BBC Scotland News (BBCScotlandNews) March 9, 2017
Sturgeon, a staunch critic of London’s secession plans and whose constituency overwhelmingly voted to remain within the EU, said an autumn 2018 vote would be a “common sense time” to push for independence as, by then, the terms of the UK’s separation with the EU will be made clear.
While no decision has been made on when a vote could take place, Sturgeon said it would be an option “if that is the road we choose to go down”.
Sturgeon leads a pro-independence devolved government and has repeatedly threatened to leave the UK if London fails to obtain favourable terms and access to Europe’s single market.
The Scottish First Minister’s opposition to Brexit was exacerbated following May’s January announcement during which she indicated her government would not be seeking any partial EU membership including access to the EU’s common tariff-free market.
Her reiterated commitment to Scottish self-determination also comes just as a new poll indicates independence sentiment in Scotland is on the rise.
Ipsos MORI on Thursday indicated that out of 1,029 likely voters surveyed, 50 percent favour breaking away from the UK. That number is a 2 percent increase over Ipsos’ previous polled.
Other polls show support for independence hovers near 45 percent.
In 2014, Scots previously voted on independence with 55 percent of voters choosing to remain within the UK.
May has repeatedly batted down the threat of Scottish independence, stating there is no need for a second Scottish ballot.
It has been the position of May’s government that “Brexit means Brexit” and that the UK should rally behind the result of the June 2016 referendum on leaving the EU.
“We are very clear we don’t believe there should be a second referendum,” said a May spokesperson in response to Sturgeon. “The referendum was held only in 2014. It was a fair, decisive and legal vote. Both sides agreed to abide by that and we think that both sides should, and that the continued discussion around a second referendum is a distraction.”
52% of people believe the— David Livey (@DavidLivey) March 9, 2017
NicolaSturgeon</a> is doing a good job in representing Scotland's interests. Just 24% for <a href="https://twitter.com/theresa_may">theresa_may. pic.twitter.com/whpMbC1ePV
But while London calls for unity, Scots voted 62 percent to remain in the EU.
Sturgeon argues the overwhelming support for the Remain ticket demands a debate and vote on independence especially given Sturgeon’s conviction a “hard Brexit” would damage the Scottish economy.
The UK’s constitution requires that a possible second independence vote needs the approval of the UK Parliament.
Parliament is currently debating legislation which would grant May the authority to begin Brexit proceedings. Its approval is expected sometime by mid-March.