MSPs back Nicola Sturgeon's calls for second Scottish independence referendum

Holyrood vote is non-binding on Westminster but heaps fresh pressure on Boris Johnson

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 29 January 2020 19:53 GMT
Boris Johnson rejects Nicola Sturgeon's plan for second Scottish independence referendum

MSPs have backed Nicola Sturgeon's calls for a second Scottish independence referendum later this year in a vote at Holyrood.

The Scottish parliament passed a motion demanding that Boris Johnson allow another referendum on Scotland's place in the UK, pointing to Brexit as a "material change in circumstances" since the 2014 vote.

The motion, backed by 64 votes to 54, now calls on the UK government to "reach an agreement with the Scottish government on such a referendum taking place on a date and in a manner determined by the Scottish Parliament".

The vote is non-binding on the UK government - which has repeatedly rejected calls to grant Holyrood the necessary powers for another vote - but it heaps fresh pressure on Mr Johnson to act.

The prime minister is on a collision course with Ms Sturgeon over whether to allow another referendum, with tensions heightened by Brexit, which Scots overwhelmingly opposed in 2016.

Mike Russell, the Scottish constitutional relations secretary, welcomed the "clear endorsement", saying: "A referendum should now be held so that the people can decide if Scotland should be an independent country.

"We propose that referendum, on a date and in a manner determined by the Scottish Parliament, should take place this year."

His comments came after Ms Sturgeon warned of the consequences for Scotland of both Brexit and a Johnson-led government, telling MSPs: "Given what the Tories have in store, proposing a further decision on independence isn't simply legitimate - it is necessary."

The Scottish first minister accused UK ministers of being "completely deaf to Scotland's interests, needs and voice", adding that their vision for the UK is driven by "jingoism and xenophobia".

Scottish Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw criticised SNP ministers for their focus on independence, saying: "If only this government spent the same amount of attention on police and schools as it does on polling and spin, we might have the safest streets and the best schools in Europe."

Labour leader Richard Leonard insisted "nobody in this chamber really believes that there will be a referendum this year".​

MSPs also narrowly voted to keep the EU flag flying over Holyrood during a bad-tempered debate over a decision by the Scottish Parliament's ruling body to remove it after Brexit.

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