Tuesday, May 28

Theresa May rejects Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum demand



Theresa May has said now is not the time, for a second Scottish independence referendum, while the government puts all its energies in to negotiating Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon stunned Downing Street on Monday by announcing she would seek to call a vote before Britain leaves the European Union, and suggested it should be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

May gave her formal response in a television interview, in which she did completely not rule out a referendum in the future; but rejected Sturgeon’s timing, and suggested if a vote was held it would it would have to take place after Brexit.

Theresa May said the UK should be working together, not puling apart. With article 50, which starts the two-year process for leaving the EU, due to be triggered by the end of this month, May said the UK should be working together, not pulling apart.

As we embark on the process of negotiating a new relationship with the European Union, I’m going to be fighting for every person, every family, every business across the whole of the United Kingdom. That’s my focus, and I think it should be the focus of us all, she said.

When the SNP government say that it’s the time to start talking about a new independence referendum, I say that just at this point, all our energies should be focused on our negotiations with the European Union about our future relationship.

On Monday, Sturgeon said she would ask the Scottish parliament to back a formal request to the government for a new referendum to be held, between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019.

The SNP argues that its timetable would allow the Scottish people, who voted to remain in the EU, to make their own decision about the future. But Downing Street believes Sturgeon is an opportunist, seeking to capitalise on the destabilising impact of the Brexit talks.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, said Sturgeon’s planned timetable would be too soon for voters to know the outlines of the deal.

The Scottish Conservatives reject the proposals set out by the first minister on Monday. A referendum cannot happen when the people of Scotland have not been given the opportunity to see how our new relationship with the European Union is working.

And it should not take place when there is no clear political or public consent for it to happen. Our country does not want to go back to the divisions and uncertainty of the last few years.

Speaking in Holyrood at first minister’s questions earlier, Sturgeon said: I will be arguing for this country to be in charge of its own finances and it’s own future, to build a stronger society and a stronger economy.

She also rejected attacks by the Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, on the potential economic and public spending costs of independence, with a £9bn projected deficit for 2019.

May’s decision to reject Sturgeon’s timetable also puts the UK government and Tories on a direct collision course with the Scottish parliament, which is expected to vote very narrowly in favour of Sturgeon’s demands next week.

Holyrood is due to stage a two-day debate and then a vote on Wednesday on endorsing the first minister’s timetable. The Scottish National party is one seat short of a majority and will need the pro-independence Scottish Green party’s backing, against the opposition of the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems.

Sturgeon is certain to use that victory to accuse May of thwarting Scotland’s will. Her opponents point out there is no evidence that Scottish voters want a new referendum before Brexit, and that up to 20% of yes voters do not want EU membership for Scotland.

May’s surprise announcement came as her two most senior aides Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, her joint chiefs of staff – arrived in Edinburgh for private strategy meetings in Edinburgh with Ruth Davidson and David Mundell to plot the Tories hawkish rejection of Sturgeon’s proposals.