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BREXIT

Scotland to hold nonbinding vote on rejecting Brexit

Scotland's parliament has underscored its displeasure with Prime Minister's Theresa May's plans for the UK to exit the European Union. While the vote is not binding, it could signal a renewed push for independence.

Scottish Referendum Vote (picture alliance/M. Smith)

A second Scottish referendum could be gaining momentum

On Tuesday, Scotland's devolved Parliament will hold a nonbinding vote on whether to reject the UK government's plans to trigger Brexit.

The motion presented by the Scottish government will argue that Westminster has not set the necessary provisions with the devolved administrations (of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) on reaching a UK-wide approach on Brexit. 

Lawmakers in the Edinburgh assembly accused British Prime Minister Theresa May of failing to answer "a range of detailed questions covering many policy areas regarding the full implications of withdrawal from the single market."

Push for independence

Though nonbinding, the vote could serve as a basis for a renewed push for a Scottish independence referendum. Scottish MPs have continued to voice their support for independence in the wake of the UK's decision to leave the EU in June, despite London’s refusal to back a second vote. 

"I'm 85 or 90 percent sure at least that we’re heading towards a referendum," Ross Greer, a lawmaker for the Scottish Greens told Reuters on Monday. 

Greer was a visible figure throughout the 2014 Scottish independence campaign, which was defeated by a 10-point margin. He told the Herald Sun on Sunday that the timing of a potential second Scottish referendum would be based on the UK government’s progress towards triggering Article 50, which it plans to activate next month.  
London confirmed on Thursday it would not back another independence vote, despite ongoing critical remarks from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon concerning the UK’s exit from the EU. 

Though the UK as a whole voted to leave the bloc in last June's landmark referendum, Scotland voted to remain. 

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Economic fears

Recent polls show that most Scots are not in favor of a new independence referendum. However the country’s economic reliance on EU citizens to maintain its workforce is a major concern for most Scottish MPs. 

EU migrants make up 3.4 percent of Scotland’s population and are highly valued for their work in the construction, research and higher education sectors. Last Monday, a cross-party Scottish parliamentary committee said the country should pursue a "differentiated" deal on immigration following the UK’s exit from the EU, as a "hard Brexit" would be likely to harm the economy.  

The committee is concerned that Scotland-based EU migrants currently faced with "imposed uncertainty" may choose to leave, resulting in poor economic performance, as well as reduced "sustainability and cultural diversity." 

Nicola Sturgeon und Theresa May Treffen in Schottland (picture-alliance/dpa)

Calls from Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for a second referendum on Scottish independence have fallen on deaf ears in Westminster.

'Democratically expressed wishes'

Greer’s recent comments are reflective of the UK government’s ongoing reluctance to compromise on other Brexit options that may be available to Scotland.

On Monday, Prime Minister May again underscored her government's stance on triggering Article 50 by next month, warning lawmakers not to obstruct the will of the British people. 

"Our European partners now want to get on with the negotiations, so do I, and so does this house," she told parliament. "The message is clear to all: This house has spoken, and now is not the time to obstruct the democratically expressed wishes of the British people. It is time to get on with leaving the European Union."

In a report published in December, the Scottish government recommended an arrangement in which Scotland could remain a member of the European Economic Area, otherwise known as the Norway Option. 

"That leaves us in a position of polar opposites," Greer said. "We can either be part of hard Brexit, which tilts towards Trump’s America, or we can be part of the European family as an independent state." 

im,dm/rt (Reuters, AP, Scottish Parliament)

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