Friday 20 January 2017

'Clock Is Ticking' On Second Scottish Independence Vote


The countdown to a second Scottish independence referendum appears to have begun after Prime Minister Theresa May laid out the course towards a "hard" Brexit -- but Scots are as divided as ever.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said another vote was "more likely" than ever after May on Tuesday outlined her plan to pull the country out of the EU's single market despite Scotland's objections.

"Time is fast running out for the UK government to convince us that they care one jot about Scotland's interests," Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament on Thursday.

"If they don't, Scotland does face a choice: do we go down the damaging path set out by Theresa May... or do we want to take control over the future of our country?"

Following a meeting with Brexit minister David Davis on Thursday, Sturgeon's representative Mike Russell said: "The clock is ticking".

Scotland voted in 2014 by a margin of 55 to 45 percent to stay in the United Kingdom.

But Sturgeon argues that last year's vote for Brexit has left Scotland in "uncharted waters" since a majority of Scots instead opted to stay in the EU.

She has put forward proposals for Scotland to be allowed to remain in the single market even as the rest of Britain leaves and has drafted an independence referendum bill just in case.

Her independence ally Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens whose votes she needs to get a second referendum through parliament, has predicted it will be held some time in 2018.

- 'Tension in the family' -

The dilemma for Sturgeon is that many Scots say the EU referendum has not changed their minds on independence.

The latest poll of 1,002 respondents carried out by BMG Research for the Herald newspaper last month found 55 percent against and 45 percent in favour -- the same split as in the 2014 vote.

Mother and daughter Irene and Cara Henney, from Paisley on the edge of Glasgow, are typical of the generational divide seen in both the independence and EU referendums.

Irene, 55, who works in sales, said no to independence but yes to Brexit.

"Sturgeon has lost sight of what matters to the Scottish people, like health and education... By calling for a second referendum she's probably alienating a lot of people," she said.

Cara, 18, a student, voted yes to independence in her first ever national vote after the Scottish government lowered the voting age to 16.

Cara missed the EU referendum, which was reserved for over-18s, but said she would have voted to stay.

"While I don't agree with some of Sturgeon's priorities, now that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will she is giving us an opportunity to fight back," she said.

Asked about the differences with her mother, she said: "It does cause some tension in the family".

Stuart Salter, 34, a town planner from Edinburgh, voted No to independence and wants to remain in the EU.

He said: "The Brexit vote hasn't changed my mind about independence.

"Driving Scotland towards another independence referendum will only add to the present uncertainty".

Campbell Fraser, 50, a drama workshop director from Clarkston, south of Glasgow, said he wanted Scotland to be an independent EU member state.

"We have to make sure we win because I don't think we'll get another chance in my lifetime," he said.

- Forced independence bid? -

Political experts believe Sturgeon may be left with little choice but to call a referendum.

But Michael Keating, director of the Economic and Social Research Council's Centre on Constitutional Change, told AFP: "There is no sign whatsoever that the UK government is going to take (Sturgeon's) proposals seriously.

"They have to say they are, because if they reject it out of hand, they will be playing right into the Scottish government's hands," he said.

Nicola McEwen, professor of Territorial Politics at Edinburgh University, said Sturgeon had left no "compromise position" for Scotland.

"The worry for the Scottish government is if you hold a second referendum and lose it, you lose the leverage for Scotland within the United Kingdom.

"But if the situation is such that there doesn't appear to be much leverage now anyway, the Scottish government may decide it has nothing to lose."



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