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Ignoring Scottish referendum mandate would "shatter" UK structure - Sturgeon
March 18, 2017 / 10:49 AM / 9 months ago

Ignoring Scottish referendum mandate would "shatter" UK structure - Sturgeon

ABERDEEN, Scotland, March 18 (Reuters) - Nicola Sturgeon will press on with plans to hold a new Scottish independence referendum and said on Saturday that a continued refusal by Britain’s prime minister to discuss the matter would “shatter beyond repair” the United Kingdom’s constitutional structure.

Scotland’s first minister expects to get authorisation from the devolved parliament on Wednesday to seek a new vote on independence from the UK, a vote which needs to be signed off by London to be legally binding. Sturgeon is seeking to do so once the terms for Brexit are clear but before Britain leaves the EU.

Prime Minister Theresa May has told Sturgeon that “now is not the time” for a new vote on independence. But ignoring Scotland’s democratic wish would send the United Kingdom as a constitutional structure into crisis, Sturgeon will say according to a text of a speech on Saturday.

“To stand in defiance of (Scottish parliamentary authorisation) would be for the Prime Minister to shatter beyond repair any notion of the UK as a respectful partnership of equals,” she will tell her Scottish National Party conference.

Theresa May, immersed in the huge complexities of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, could yet change her mind, Sturgeon said.

“She has time to think again and I hope she does. If her concern is timing then -- within reason -- I am happy to have that discussion,” Sturgeon will say.

Last June’s vote to leave the EU has altered the political landscape and shaken the ties of the United Kingdom’s four nations. England, the UK’s most populous nation, and Wales voted to leave while the Scots and the Northern Irish wanted to keep their EU membership.

While Sturgeon, who leads the devolved government, told Scottish television on Friday that she still has “options” if May refuses to acknowledge her mandate, she was unwilling to say what those options were.

There has been talk by delegates at the conference of the possibility of a consultative referendum, that is, a poll not authorised by the British parliament which is sovereign on issues regarding the constitution.

“This is a step by step process. If we send an envelope to May and she returns it unopened, then we have the UK government not talking to the Scottish government,” said a senior SNP source. “That is a constitutional crisis, or something very close to it,” the source said.

Scottish voters rejected independence in 2014 by a 10 percentage point margin. But Sturgeon was elected last year on a manifesto which included the possibility of a new independence vote if there were a material change in circumstances “such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

“We can still decide which path we take,” Sturgeon will tell the conference. “Whatever our different opinions on independence, we can all unite around this simple principle: Scotland’s future must be Scotland’s choice.” (Reporting by Elisabeth O‘Leary; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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