The Scottish Government will move to hold a second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, the country's First Minister has announced, blaming the UK Government's lack of compromise over Brexit.
Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement in a speech on Monday morning at Bute House, as MPs in Westminster prepared to give Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50 and begin Brexit negotiations.
She said the UK Government had "not moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement" with the Scottish Government over Brexit and that even a good deal would be "significantly inferior" to the status quo.
Ms May, however, accused Ms Sturgeon of playing "games" and the SNP of having "tunnel vision".
In her announcement at Bute House, Ms Sturgeon said: "If Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as the EU and the single market then it is clear that our voice can be ignored at any time and on any issue."
The First Minister said the vote had to be held between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019 – before it was "too late" but after "the terms of Brexit are known". The First Minister says she will apply to the UK Government to authorise the referendum but that it should respect the will of the Scottish Parliament.
Under the so-called "Section 30 order" used to a call a referendum the UK Parliament must authorise a poll – meaning Ms Sturgeon's call could be blocked by Theresa May.
She added: "The option of no change is no longer available. But we will give the Scottish people a choice about the kind of change we want."
“I believe that it would be wrong for Scotland to be taken down a path that it has no control over regardless of the consequences for our economy, for our society, for our place in the world, for our very sense of who we are as a country. That would be wrong, and therefore my judgement is that we should have that choice," she said.
"I believe that in a referendum the Scottish people will opt for independence, but that will be the choice of the Scottish people and I’ve been very clear that that will be an informed choice.”
The SNP won the Scottish Parliament elections last year on a manifesto that explicitly said another referendum was an option if Scotland was "taken out of the EU against our will".
Scotland voted by 62 per cent to stay in the the European Union while the UK as a whole voted out. Theresa May has also confirmed that she will take Britain out of the single market – one of the "red lines" previously set by Ms Sturgeon for another vote.
The SNP's 2016 manifesto said: "We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will."
Reacting to Ms Sturgeon's announcement, the Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The tunnel vision that the SNP has shown today is deeply regrettable. It sets Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division, creating huge uncertainty.
“This is at a time when the Scottish people, the majority of the Scottish people, do not want a second independence referendum.
“Instead of playing politics with the future of our country the Scottish government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people of Scotland. Politics is not a game.”
The first referendum on independence was held in September 2014 and was won by the unionist side by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn said this week that his party would not stand in the way of a second Scottish independence referendum if one was called.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “As the Prime Minister has set out, the UK Government seeks a future partnership with the EU that works for the whole of the United Kingdom. The UK Government will negotiate that agreement, but we will do so taking into account the interests of all of the nations of the UK.
"We have been working closely with all the devolved administrations - listening to their proposals, and recognising the many areas of common ground, including workers’ rights, the status of EU citizens living in the UK and our security from crime and terrorism.
“Only a little over two years ago people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of our United Kingdom in a referendum which the Scottish Government defined as a ‘once in a generation’ vote. The evidence clearly shows that a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum. Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time.
“The Scottish Government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people in Scotland.”
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