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Scotland maps road to independence referendum

By Jonathan Powell in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-04-25 00:56

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addresses the media after a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, Jan 23, 2019. [Photo/IC]

Scotland's first minister outlined plans for a possible Scottish independence referendum on Wednesday despite opposition from the UK government and amid continuing Brexit uncertainty.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood in Edinburgh, Nicola Sturgeon laid out the "path forward for Scotland", though aspecific date for a further vote on independence was not given.

Her statement explored issues that have arisen as a result of the ongoing Brexit situation and Scotland's constitutional future, and detailed a way ahead for Scotland amid the ongoing Brexit confusion at Westminster.

Scottish Conservatives said Sturgeon was "obsessed" by independence and was neglecting other issues, while the Green Party urged Sturgeon to "fire the starting gun" on a new independence vote as an "escape route from Brexit".

It comes days before the annual Scottish National Party conference in Edinburgh, which is set to be dominated by discussion of the party's "growth commission" paper of plans for independence.

Sturgeon called for a second referendum on Scotland's relationship with the EU immediately after the Brexit vote in 2016, but put her plans on hold after the snap general election the following year.

The first minister had long been expected to come back and update Members of Scottish Parliament (known as MSPs) on the "precise timescale" for the new vote - known as "indyref2" - once there was more clarity about the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

Sturgeon set out steps to protect her existing referendum mandate, leaving open the prospect of a ballot before the next Holyrood elections in 2021.

The first minister's statement was expected to appease SNP activists ahead of the party conference this coming weekend.

There is a pro-independence majority at Holyrood, between the Greens and the SNP, which saw the Parliament back calls for a new referendum in March 2017.

Analysis from BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor suggested the SNP conference at the weekend was "concentrating minds."

"There is a restlessness in the independence movement more generally, and there is a restlessness in the SNP," he said.

"I think the argument here is that Brexit is the potential trigger for a further referendum because Scotland was told in the 2014 independence referendum that the way to stay in the EU was to stay in the UK. That proved not to be the case.

"But the offer of independence has always in Scotland been predicated upon having the confidence to take charge of one's own affairs, and the other thing that Brexit does is it knocks the confidence of the nation."

Last month, Sturgeon joined a crowd of one million people on a march in London to demand a second Brexit referendum.

The first minister said the handling of the Brexit process by the UK government had strengthened the case for Scottish independence.

Speaking last month, she said: "The experience of the last, almost three years now: Scotland's vote ignored, the voice of the Scottish parliament ignored, all of the consequences that flow from Brexit completely out of our control.

"That really does make the case for independence very, very powerfully."

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