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Nicola Sturgeon says second Scottish independence referendum in autumn 2018 is 'common sense'

Scottish First Minister says she has 'cast-iron mandate' to call second national vote as Brexit looms

Thursday 09 March 2017 09:49 GMT
Nicola Sturgeon calls for second independence referendum in 2018

Nicola Sturgeon has said next year is a “common sense time” to hold a second referendum on Scotland’s independence.

The Scottish First Minister also said 2018 was an ideal time for another attempt because the UK’s post-European Union deal would look a little clearer.

It comes after the Government’s second Brexit defeat in the House of Lords as peers backed calls for a “meaningful” parliamentary vote on the final withdrawal terms.

“I’m not ruling anything out,” said Ms Sturgeon, speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

“I’m going to continue to take things forward at the pace that I think is right for the country.”

Asked if autumn 2018 was a likely date, she replied: “Within that window, of when the outline of a UK deal becomes clear and the UK exiting the EU, I think would be a common sense time for Scotland to have that choice, if that is the road we choose to go down.”

More than 55 per cent of Scotland voted to remain in the UK in 2014 at a time when leaving the EU was a distant pipe dream for Eurosceptics.

But Ms Sturgeon has said she has a "cast-iron mandate" for a second referendum because 62 per cent of Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU last June.

She has also justified an independent Scotland with the success of North Sea oil, but reports this month said the industry was in dire need of fresh capital after prices fell to 12-year lows.

Jacqueline Minor, the European commission's head of representation in the UK, also said an independent Scotland would have to queue up to join the EU and would not be enrolled automatically.

But SNP economic spokesman Stewart Hosie also told BBC Breakfast today that a “hard Tory, cliff-edge Brexit” makes “a second independence referendum more likely”.

A looming threat of another Scottish bid to leave the union further complicates Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiations with the other 27 member states.

But under current constitutional conventions, London would have to approve a second Scottish plebiscite.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale responded furiously to the latest comments, alluding to Ms Sturgeon's column in the The Times last week in which she said she was holding off referendum talk.

“This is yet another attempt by Nicola Sturgeon to sow division and uncertainty, at a time when the country needs to pull together more than ever," said Ms Dugdale.

“The First Minister has been all over the place - one week she threatens a vote, the next week she backs away from one. Nicola Sturgeon could provide much-needed clarity on Scotland's future by ruling out another independence referendum altogether.

“Scottish Labour will never back independence and we will oppose a second referendum because we believe that together we're stronger.”

Brexit: Britain's Biggest Deal will air on BBC Two at 9pm.

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