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Sturgeon takes first formal step towards Scottish referendum

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Sturgeon takes first formal step towards Scottish referendum

Scotland’s first minister has taken the first formal step towards holding a second referendum on independence.

Nicola Sturgeon has gone to the parliament in Edinburgh to seek backing for her plan for a fresh vote.

What happened last time?

Scotland voted against independence by 55 to 45 percent in 2014. However, Sturgeon argues the circumstances have changed since the UK voted to leave the EU in last June’s Brexit referendum.

What Sturgeon said

She told the Parliament in Edinburgh the Scottish people were threatened with being taken out of the European Union “against their will” because of Brexit.

Sturgeon says Britain leaving the UK would have “massive implications” for Scotland’s economy and its position in the world.

She wants the parliament to back her call for Scotland to hold a second referendum on independence.

“To suggest that an emphatic election victory on the basis of a clear manifesto commitment and a parliamentary majority on an issue does not provide a mandate begs the question: what does? And it runs the real risk of undermining the democratic process.”

“What I sought to do was to find a way of allowing Scotland to stay in the UK while also protecting the vital elements of our relationship with Europe. In other words, we tried to square the UK-wide vote to leave the EU with the Scottish vote to remain, and to give effect to how people in Scotland voted in both 2014 and 2016.”

Sturgeon said she has sought alternatives for Scotland since the Brexit vote in June last year but says her overtures to the UK government in Westminster have been rejected.

“Nine months on, there is no indication at all that this parliament’s voice has carried any weight at Westminster,” she said.

“Instead, the UK government is taking decisions entirely unilaterally which I, and many others, believe will deeply damage our economy, our society and our standing in the world.”

What the opposition say

In a heated debate, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, accused Sturgeon of acting like a “bulldozer”, putting independence above all else despite not having public support for another vote.

Davidson’s party, the main opposition to Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party, has proposed an amendment opposing any independence referendum before April 2019.

“The best lines and put-downs from the Scottish Independence debate” – followed by The Telegraph.

What London says

London’s permission for a fresh referendum is needed because any legally binding vote on UK constitutional matters has to be authorised by the UK parliament.

If Westminster agrees, what is known as a “Section 30” order would hand power temporarily to the Scottish Assembly for this matter, mandating it to decide on how a new independence referendum could be organised.