The Scottish parliament has backed Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum, in a landmark vote that could eventually see Scotland leave the UK.
The vote, which was postponed until Tuesday following the attack on Westminster last week, was passed by MSPs in Holyrood by 69 to 59 – providing the Scottish First Minister with the mandate to seek a second referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.
Ms Sturgeon’s minority government was able to win the vote after the Scottish Green Party backed the move, which was described as “deeply regrettable” by the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.
But Theresa May has already ruled out holding a second referendum on Scotland’s future while the Brexit negotiations are underway adding, “now is not the time” for another vote.
Responding to the vote in Holyrood, a UK Government spokesperson said Ms May would not be entering into negotiations on the Scottish government’s proposal. “At this point, all our focus should be on our negotiations with the European Union, making sure we get the right deal for the whole of the UK,” the spokesperson said.
“It would be unfair to the people of Scotland to ask them to make a crucial decision without the necessary information about our future relationship with Europe, or what an independent Scotland would look like.
“We have been joined together as one country for more than 300 years. We've worked together, we've prospered together, we’ve fought wars together, and we have a bright future. At this crucial time we should be working together, not pulling apart.”
Labour and Liberal Democrats MSPs voted against the second referendum alongside the Conservatives. Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, added there is no evidence of an appetite for another vote among Scots, who voted against independence by 55 per cent to 44 per cent in 2014.
She added: “There absolutely should not be another independence referendum until after Brexit. We have no idea what Brexit looks like, or how it will impact our economy and families in Scotland.
“If there is to be another vote, the people of Scotland deserve clarity on what they are being asked to vote on.
But Mike Russell, the Scotland government’s Brexit minister, said: “It’s a question now of how, rather than if, on a second vote. The real issue now is no one can stand against it. It's the choice of the Scottish parliament, it's the choice of the Scottish people, and that will be recognised globally. So what we now need to do is have a sensible discussion about how this proceeds.
“Theresa May has succeeded in creating constitutional chaos throughout the UK. I hope there will come a moment, and perhaps this is that moment, in which she recognises this is a foolish way to operate.”
On Monday the Prime Minister visited Ms Sturgeon as part of her 11th-hour dash around Britain before invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and triggering the UK’s two-year countdown to leave the EU on Wednesday.