Scottish nationalists to seek independence referendum, seat on Brexit talks if they win most seats in election

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on May 30 that she wants a re-run of the Scottish National Party's failed 2014 independence bid in late 2018 or early 2019.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed on May 30 that she wants a re-run of the Scottish National Party's failed 2014 independence bid in late 2018 or early 2019.PHOTO: AFP

PERTH, Scotland (AFP) - Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday (May 30) that she would demand a new independence referendum and a seat at the Brexit negotiating table if her party wins the most seats in Scotland in the British election.

Presenting the Scottish National Party's manifesto for the vote, Sturgeon pledged to pursue her plan to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom and back into the European Union.

"Scotland must have a choice about our future - a choice between following the UK down the Brexit path or becoming an independent country," she told hundreds of SNP activists in Perth.

Sturgeon confirmed that she wants a re-run of the SNP's failed 2014 independence bid in late 2018 or early 2019, but said she could extend that timetable if there was not sufficient "clarity" about the consequences of Brexit, with Britain due to leave the EU in March 2019.

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The SNP hopes to hold a referendum before the current term of the semi-autonomous Scottish Parliament runs out in 2021, while still giving party leaders enough time to convince a sceptical electorate.

A series of polls have shown that support for independence is holding steady at about 45 per cent, the same result as in 2014.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said "now is not the time" for another referendum, and Scotland's unionist parties, including May's Tories, oppose another referendum.

Sturgeon said she wanted an independence referendum towards the end of the Brexit negotiations, so that voters can make a "genuinely informed choice about the future of our country".

The SNP goes into the June 8 general election defending 54 of the 59 Scottish seats in the 650-member British Parliament.

Scottish polling shows SNP support down but still comfortably ahead of the resurgent Tory and Labour parties.

"If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats in this election, that will further reinforce our mandate" for another referendum, Sturgeon said.

"And in these circumstances, any continued Tory attempts to block Scotland having a choice - when the time is right and the options are clear - would be democratically unsustainable."

Sturgeon also renewed her demand for a seat at the Brexit negotiations, despite May's flat refusal to her request.

Sturgeon said an SNP victory in Scotland would make it "impossible for the prime minister to continue to ignore Scotland's voice", after it voted by 62 per cent for Britain to remain in the EU.