New clash over constitution
Sturgeon told she has ‘no mandate’ for second indy poll
Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May are locked in a new battle over prospects for a second independence referendum in Scotland.
A draft bill giving Scotland the ability to reconsider the question of independence before the UK leaves the EU has been published for consultation.
It proposes a possible poll in 2018, run in a way similar to 2014 as the First Minister repeated her pledge to “do everything we can to protect Scotland’s interests.”
In her notes in the consultation paper she says: “The damage to jobs and Scotland’s economy that will be caused by Brexit – especially a hard Brexit – is now plain to see.
“We will continue to work UK wide to seek to avert a hard Brexit and we will also bring forward proposals that seek to protect our place in the single market, even if the rest of the UK leaves.
“However, if we find that our interests cannot be properly or fully protected within a UK context then independence must be one of the options open to us and the Scottish people must have the right to consider it.
“Any decision on holding a referendum, including the timing of it, would be for the Scottish Parliament to take having considered all the options for Scotland’s future relationship with the EU and the associated impact of being forced to leave against our will.”
However, Number Ten said the Scottish government does not have a mandate for a second vote and said both sides last time agreed to abide by the outcome of the 2014 poll.
Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Derek Mackay said: “This government remains committed to working with the UK Government on areas of common interest and where we can come up with constructive solutions to problems that we both face.
“We are now publishing the bill for consultation so that it is ready for introduction should the Scottish Government decide that seeking the views of the Scottish people on independence is the best or only way to protect Scotland’s interests in the wake of the EU referendum. In stark contrast with the UK Government, we have a clear plan of action.”
The consultation will run until 11 January.
UK Brexit Secretary David Davis will be in Scotland today to meet his Scottish counterpart Michael Russell. The pair met in London last month.
Mr Davis will also attend a meeting with business figures at the University of Strathclyde.
As heads of state met in Brussels yesterday there were warnings for Mrs May that leaving the EU will not be an easy process. French President Francois Hollande said: “I say very firmly, (if) Mrs May wants a hard Brexit, the negotiations will be hard.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed that view, saying: “In practice, that will be a tough road.”
The prime minister has promised to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – beginning two years of formal exit negotiations with the EU – by the end of March.
This means Brexit, backed in a UK-wide referendum in June, will take place by the summer of 2019.