The Cable

Scots Vote on a Second Independence Referendum, Bucking Theresa May

What a long, strange, referendum-filled trip it’s been.

indy ref two

On Wednesday, Scottish parliament was set to vote to give its government a mandate for a second referendum on Scottish independence from Great Britain.

This follows British Prime Minister Theresa May’s declaration last week that “now is not the time” for a second referendum on Scottish independence, which she believes should not be held until after the completion of negotiations for Britain itself to leave the European Union. While May is set to trigger those talks by the end of the month, they’ll likely take until at least 2019 to complete.

May’s comments didn’t sit well with Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, and don’t seem to have gone down well with the Scottish parliament, either. And since Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalist Party has roughly half the seats in parliament and will probably be joined in this matter by the Greens, it’s likely to vote to back Sturgeon’s plans for a second referendum before “it is too late to choose an alternative path.”  

Wednesday’s vote marks the conclusion of two days of debate. Sturgeon opened it by saying, “As a result of the Brexit vote we know that change is now inevitable — the question is what kind of change is right for Scotland and whether that change is made for us or by us.”

The first referendum on Scottish independence was held in the summer of 2014, and failed, with only about 45 percent backing independence. Then-prime Minister David Cameron urged Scots to look beyond his unpopularity when voting: a vote to break the 300-plus-year union would be permanent, he argued.

One reason the Scottish “no” vote prevailed: Scots wanted to stay in Europe, which would have been tougher if they bailed out of Great Britain. Now, the situation is reversed: Scots voted overwhelmingly against Brexit last summer, and many see Scottish independence as they only way to stay inside the EU. (Many in Europe are willing to welcome them with open arms, though Spain — with its own restless regions — is leery of setting a dangerous precedent.)

Lawmakers suspended their sitting out of respect for their “sister Parliament,” outside of which there was an attack that Scotland Yard is at present treating as a “terrorist incident,” delaying their decision as to whether the best way to remain really is to leave after all.

Update, March 22 2017, 12:03 pm ET: This post was updated to reflect that the vote was suspended. 

Photo credit: Jeff J Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images

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