Scottish opposition insists no new independence vote

Mark MCLAUGHLIN
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Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Ruth Davidson reaffirmed her opposition to independence at the party's conference in Glasgow

Scotland's opposition leader insisted Saturday there should be no second referendum on Scottish independence, urging the governing nationalists to concentrate on making the best of Brexit rather than exploiting it for another secession push.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson told the party's conference in Glasgow that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party (SNP) was trying to bounce the country into a new referendum.

Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom by 55 percent in the 2014 vote.

It also voted by 62 percent for the UK to remain in the European Union last year, while the UK-wide vote was to leave, which Sturgeon seized upon.

She has said Brexit makes a second independence referendum "highly likely."

Many in her left-wing secessionist party hope she will announce a fresh bid at the SNP conference on March 17-18, with Britain set to trigger two years of divorce talks with the EU by the end of the month.

Davidson, leader of the second-biggest party in the semi-autonomous Scottish Parliament, reaffirmed her opposition to independence.

"Scotland said no to independence. Scotland is saying: stop trying to bounce us into another referendum," she told her centre-right party.

"The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party will never waver in our determination to stand up for the decision we made as a country. We will fight you every step of the way.

"We said 'no,' we meant it. Are you listening, Nicola? No second referendum.

"We deserve a Scottish government that is focused on helping Team UK get the best Brexit deal for all of us, not using it to revive its independence obsession."

- Nationalists protest outside -

Outside the conference, around 200 nationalists gathered to protest, chanting "Tory scum" and waving banners calling for another referendum.

Susan McGilvray, 41, an SNP member from East Ayrshire on Scotland's west coast, told AFP: "I would love to see the call for a second referendum."

While polls have shifted slightly, support for independence remains in a minority.

McGilvray said: "We might lose it, but no-one ever got anywhere by saying 'what if'?"

The Scottish Parliament does not have the authority to hold a second independence referendum. It must seek the permission of the staunchly unionist British Prime Minister Theresa May.

John Menzies, 48, an SNP councillor from Hamilton near Glasgow, was among several dozen motorcyclists who gathered under the banner "Bikers for Yes."

May, Britain's Conservative leader, would be "very silly" if she blocked a fresh referendum, he argued.

"That would irk even more of the Scottish people, who then go on and vote for independence," he said.

On Friday, May told the conference in Glasgow that the SNP's "obsession" with independence and "tunnel vision nationalism" had caused it to neglect running Scotland's public services properly.

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