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Sturgeon holds firm after May's 'not now' to Scottish referendum

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By Alasdair Sandford  with Reuters
Sturgeon holds firm after May's 'not now' to Scottish referendum

Scottish nationalists have reacted angrily after the British government said it would reject another referendum on independence from the United Kingdom before Brexit, amid a heated debate in the Scottish Parliament.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says if the parliament backs her call to seek a vote, she is determined to implement that on her timescale – not that of London.

The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) wants a referendum either late next year or in early 2019 – by which time she says the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union should have become clear.

Sturgeon said on Monday that she would ask the Scottish Parliament next week to seek London’s approval for a second plebiscite on independence.

“I think most people across Scotland, whether they would vote yes or no to independence will be appalled at the idea that a Conservative government with no mandate in Scotland, seeking to stand in the way of a democratically elected government with a clear mandate,” Nicola Sturgeon said outside the parliament on Thursday.

Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum came after the First Minister said she had hit a “brick wall” in London over her efforts to allow Scotland to secure its own post-Brexit deal with the European Union.

Theresa May has not said she will block a second independence referendum, but insists a vote should not be held while the UK’s exit negotiations from the EU are ongoing.

“Now is not the time,” the British prime minister repeated several times in an interview with ITV News on Thursday.

“If people were asked at this time, they’d be being asked to make a crucial decision without necessary information. I don’t think that would be fair. This union that we have, I believe, is very precious. As I say, we’ve been joined together for over 300 years. We’ve had a great history together, I believe we have a great future together,” she said.

The UK’s Scottish Minister David Mundell has ruled out any discussion on the procedure to launch a vote now, saying there can be no negotiations on Section 30 of the Scotland Act, the relevant mechanism authorising the Scottish Parliament to act.

Scotland rejected independence from the UK in a referendum in 2014. But the nation opted heavily to remain in the EU last June, when the UK overall voted to leave.

Theresa May now has the British parliament’s backing to start the formal Brexit procedure, after the Queen signed into law the bill authorising the prime minister to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. May has said she will do so later this month.