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Scottish parliament votes to hold new independence referendum

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon smiles as she arrives at the SEC Centre in Glasgow for the declaration in her constituency in the 2019 general election, Friday Dec. 13
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon smiles as she arrives at the SEC Centre in Glasgow for the declaration in her constituency in the 2019 general election, Friday Dec. 13   -  
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(AP Photo/Scott Heppell) - SCOTT HEPPELL
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Scotland’s Parliament voted Wednesday to hold a new referendum on Scottish independence, a move intended to increase political pressure on the British government as the UK leaves the European Union.

Lawmakers in the Edinburgh-based legislature voted 64-54 to call for holding a referendum "so that the people of Scotland can decide whether they wish it to become an independent country.”

However, the vote will have little immediate effect. A binding referendum can’t take place without the British government's agreement, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson this month turned down the Scottish government's request for one on the independence question.

Johnson argues that a 2014 plebiscite, in which Scots rejected independence, was billed as a once-in-a-generation vote and should stand.

Read more: Watch: MEPs sing Auld Lang Syne after giving historic Brexit backing

Scotland’s pro-independence government says Brexit changes everything. Britain as a whole voted narrowly in 2016 to leave the EU, but voters in Scotland opted by a large margin to remain.

The UK’s long-delayed exit from the EU is due to take place Friday.

"We stand just two days from losing our EU membership and all of the rights that go with it,” said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

"In my view, it is beyond doubt now that the only realistic way for Scotland to return to the heart of Europe and to ensure we get the governments we vote for is to become an independent country,” Sturgeon said.

Scottish lawmakers also voted to keep the European Union flag flying outside the Scottish Parliament after Brexit.

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