May: ‘Now is not the time’ for Scottish independence vote

Theresa May [Number 10/Flickr]

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday (16 March) rejected a call by the Scottish government for a second referendum on independence before Britain leaves the EU, but did not rule out a vote entirely.

“I say now is not the time,” she said, arguing that all of Britain’s energies should be put into the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Monday that she wanted a fresh vote on leaving Britain, saying Scotland did not want the “hard Brexit” that May’s Conservative government is pursuing.

Scotland seeks second referendum amid Brexit doubts

The Scottish government announced today (13 March) a new independence vote, pre-empting this week’s expected start of the Brexit process. Nicola Sturgeon will seek the power to call a new referendum on whether Scotland should follow the UK out of the EU or form its own country.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader suggested the referendum could take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 – before Britain is expected to leave the EU.

Sturgeon will seek approval in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for a new vote next Wednesday, but London has the right to block the request.

“Right now we should be working together, not pulling apart,” May said in a televised interview.

SNP Brexit minister: There is no such thing as a UK 'single market'

On the day Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a new referendum on independence, quizzed the SNP’s Brexit minister in Brussels on whether Scotland could actually rejoin the EU and why pro-independence polls hadn’t budged since the Brexit vote in June.

“We should be working together to get that right deal for Scotland, that right deal for the UK. As I say, that’s my job as prime minister and so for that reason I say to the SNP: now is not the time.”

But she refused repeated questions about when the right time for a new referendum might be, leaving the door open for a vote further in the future.

May had previously said there was no appetite for a second referendum less than three years after Scots voted by 55% to 45% to reject independence, in September 2014.

Parliament backs Brexit bill, notification expected by end of March

Parliament gave its approval yesterday (13 March) for Prime Minister Theresa May to start Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, even as Scotland signalled its opposition by announcing plans for a fresh independence vote.

The SNP government was re-elected last year with a manifesto stating that it could call a second vote if there was a significant change in the country’s circumstances – such as Brexit.

The majority of Scotland voted to stay in the European Union last June, but Britain as a whole voted by 52% to leave.

Poll: Euroscepticism in Scotland at record level

Support for Scottish independence is at its highest ever but it might not be the best time for Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to hold a new referendum, a survey by ScotCen’s Scottish Social Attitudes said on Wednesday (15 March).

Subscribe to our newsletters