Scotland puts second independence referendum on hold

By Allen Cone   |   June 27, 2017 at 1:38 PM
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June 27 (UPI) -- Scotland has delayed plans for a second referendum on independence until there is "sufficient clarity" on Britain's departure from the European Union.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement Tuesday to put referendum plans on hold. She needs permission from the British government for a legally binding vote.

In 2014, 55 percent of Scots voted against breaking a 300-year union with Britain, but the leader wanted a new vote in the wake of Brexit because Scots overwhelmingly opposed leaving the European Union. Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019.

"The Scottish government remains committed -- strongly -- to the principle of giving Scotland a choice at the end of this process," she said. "But I want to reassure people that our proposal is not for a referendum now or before there is sufficient clarity about the options -- but rather to give them a choice at the end of the Brexit process when that clarity has emerged."

She added: "I am therefore confirming today that, having listened and reflected, the Scottish government will reset the plan I set out on March 13. We will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately."

The leader of Scotland's governing Scottish National Party had planned to push for a second referendum between 2018 and 2019.

Sturgeon instead said she would redouble on the Scottish government's efforts to influence Brexit talks "in a way that protects Scotland's interests," and that her government remained committed to dampening a hard Brexit in favor of keeping Britain in the single market.

Earlier Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Sky News that Sturgeon should "completely take off the table" a second independence referendum.

"I think that was the clear message from the general election and I think now is the time for the United Kingdom to be pulling together, not being driven apart."

In the June 8 general election, Sturgeon's party lost 21 seats from the 56 won in the 2015 voting and its share dropped from 50 percent to 37 percent.

Reaction from other parties was mixed.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said Sturgeon should have taken the independence referendum off the table entirely.

Willie Rennie, head of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said "nothing has changed" and independence should be pursued. The pro-independence Scottish Greens had urged the SNP leader not to retreat on her referendum bid and to "continue fighting" for another vote.

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