ABERDEEN, Scotland (Reuters) - Scotland must hold another independence referendum in 2020 and will soon request the powers needed to hold it legally, Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday.
Scots rejected independence in a referendum in 2014 but the SNP says that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union fundamentally changes its constitutional arrangements and means that the independence question should be revisited.
Sturgeon, who is also Scotland’s First Minister, said she was “sick of Brexit” and that the United Kingdom was a broken political system that imposed policies on Scotland against its will.
Britain as a whole voted in 2016 to leave the European Union but Scotland voted to remain, and Sturgeon has often campaigned for secession on the grounds that the country is now being taken out of the EU against its wishes.
Opinion polls show Brexit has slightly boosted the pro-independence vote but suggest it is still only around 50%.
Speaking at the SNP’s annual conference in Aberdeen, Sturgeon said: “It is time for Scotland to choose our own future. It is time to reclaim our independence.
“Our job is to deliver independence. My call is that the referendum must happen next year. And we are getting ready,” she added, to cheers from members of the SNP, Scotland’s main political party.
As the law stands, to hold another referendum legally, Scotland would need the permission of the British government in Westminster.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it would be “totally wrong” to hold another referendum, and that to hold a vote, the UK government would need to transfer powers to Scotland’s devolved parliament where Sturgeon sits.
Sturgeon said she would demand those powers, under Section 30 of the Scotland Act, to ensure any vote was legal.
“Before the end of this year, I will demand the transfer of power that puts the legality of a referendum beyond any doubt,” she said.
The SNP has often expressed its sympathy for the cause of Catalan separatists. On Monday, Spain’s Supreme Court jailed nine Catalan separatist leaders for their role in a failed independence bid.
Sturgeon said that though she understood the importance of the rule of law, “any law that sends politicians to prison for organising a vote is a law that surely needs to change.”
She added: “the politicians and activists from Catalonia... are peaceful campaigners for the right to self determination just like we are.”
Writing by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison