Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that her devolved government will take a first step towards holding an independence referendum by May 2021. She hopes to have legislation agreed by the end of the year.
Scotland will take the first steps towards holding another referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday.
Sturgeon added that the referendum should be held before May 2021, when the current Scottish parliamentary term ends.
"A choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation should be offered in the lifetime of this parliament," Sturgeon, the head of the Scottish National Party (SNP), told lawmakers in Edinburgh.
She said that a devolved parliament bill would be drawn up by the end of 2019.
Sturgeon added that Scotland currently doesn't need to request permission from the UK to hold a binding vote, but that it will need to do so in the future "to put beyond doubt or challenge our ability to apply the bill to an independence referendum."
In 2017, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she would not agree to holding the independence referendum while the Brexit process was still going on.
A spokesman for May said on Wednesday that the result of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, which saw a majority of voters reject leaving the UK, should be respected.
Tensions over Brexit
Sturgeon hopes that dissatisfaction with London's handling of Brexit could tip the balance towards a vote for independence. In 2014 the referendum held in Scotland to leave the UK was defeated by 55% to 45% of votes.
For the Brexit referendum in 2016, voters in Scotland backed remaining in the European Union by 62% to 38% for leave.
"The status quo is broken. Serious change is needed," Sturgeon told parliament.
Uncertainty over the UK's departure from the EU, which has been delayed until October 31, has also complicated efforts in Scotland to hold another independence referendum.
Those who want Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom have argued that opinion polls about independence have remained largely unchanged since the Brexit referendum.
At Westminster, Scotland is represented by 35 MPs from Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP), 13 from the Conservative Party, seven from Labour and four from the Liberal Democrats.
David Mundell, the UK Conservative government's Scottish Secretary, said Sturgeon "continues to press for divisive constitutional change when it is clear that most people in Scotland do not want another independence referendum."
Sturgeon, on the other hand, argued that the UK leaving the EU would greatly endanger Scotland's economy.
"We face being forced to the margins, sidelined within a UK that is itself increasingly sidelined on the international stage. Independence by contrast would allow us to protect our place in Europe," she said. "We need a more solid foundation on which to build our future as a country."
rs/jm (AFP, Reuters)