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May's Brexit stance ups chance of new independence vote, says Scotland

World Tuesday 28/February/2017 17:46 PM
By: Times News Service
May's Brexit stance ups chance of new independence vote, says Scotland

London: The "sheer intransigence" of the British government over Brexit could lead to a second Scottish independence referendum, the head of the devolved Scottish government said on Tuesday.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, elected leader in 2014 after an unsuccessful referendum to break away from the UK, has long said she will seek to give Scots a second vote if they are forced into a "hard Brexit" that would end their preferential access to the EU's single market and free movement of labour.
The Edinburgh government has proposed a bespoke deal for Scotland to stay in the single market while the rest of the United Kingdom leaves. May has repeatedly said she is deteremined to negotiate a deal that works for all parts of the country, which she wants to hold together.
Edinburgh has had legislation for a new "indyref" ready since October and sources say it could call for a referendum as early as next month when British Prime Minister Theresa May triggers the Brexit process.
Writing in The Times newspaper, Sturgeon said Britain's vote to leave the EU had changed the landscape since Scotland last held a referendum on its independence, voting by a 10-point margin to remain part of the United Kingdom in 2014.
"If an independence referendum does arise, it will not be down to bad faith on the part of the Scottish government, but to sheer intransigence on the part of the UK government," Sturgeon said.
It is a gamble. Sturgeon wants to be sure she can win but opinion polls show a small majority against splitting up the UK. The British government has repeated that it believes that there should be no second referendum.
The threat of a second vote further complicates May's strategy to pull Britain out of the bloc in what are already some of the most complicated negotiations since World War II.
If May were to block a new vote, she could risk a constitutional crisis. If she accepted it, she could risk splitting the United Kingdom.
May's senior ministers spent much of last week's cabinet meeting speaking about their support for the integrity of the United Kingdom, a spokesman said, signalling rising concern about the SNP's threats to break the three-century-old union between England and Scotland.
Scottish lawmakers have complained that their opinions are not taken seriously in London despite May's assertions that the nations within the UK - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - would be consulted regularly before and during the negotiations with the European Union.
In June's EU referendum, voters in England and Wales supported leaving while Scots backed staying inside by a large majority.
Although sources told Reuters last week that the Scottish government was increasingly confident it could win a second independence vote, Sturgeon said no decision had yet been taken.
"... we continue to seek compromise with the UK government - although we have not seen any evidence so far of real willingness to compromise," she wrote in The Times.
"It is not too late for the UK government to change course, but time is running out."