Scottish leader vows to step up independence push post-Brexit

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during the SNP general election campaign launch in Edinburg November 8, 2019. — Reuters pic
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during the SNP general election campaign launch in Edinburg November 8, 2019. — Reuters pic

EDINBURGH, Jan 31 — First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today said she was ready to step up the campaign for Scottish independence, arguing Brexit had set the country on the “wrong road”.

In a speech in Edinburgh, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) said Britain’s departure from the European Union was a “pivotal moment” for the UK and Scotland.

“As of 11pm tonight (2300 GMT) the UK that Scotland voted to remain part of, a UK inside the EU, the status quo that a majority voted for, will no longer exist,” she said.

“There will be a material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014,” she said, referring to the last referendum on Scottish independence.

Sturgeon maintains her party has the political support to hold another referendum, pointing to three previous UK parliament elections at which the SNP won majority backing in Scotland.

Members of the devolved Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh this week voted to back her calls for a fresh vote, which she wants to be held as early as this year.

But UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has rejected SNP requests to formally transfer powers from London to Edinburgh for the referendum — dubbed indyref2 — to be held.

‘Leave a light on’

Scottish newspapers today marked Brexit with pro-European front pages, reflecting the majority vote north of the border with England to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.

“Short changed: Isolated, worse off, weaker and divided,” said the Daily Record

Pro-independence daily The National wrote: “Dear Europe. We didn’t vote for this. Remember to... Leave a light on for Scotland.”

Sturgeon committed to persuade more Scots to back independence, as a new poll suggested a slim majority were now in favour of the country ending its three-centuries union with the UK.

“Our party campaign is therefore ready to ramp up,” she said, pledging to double the SNP campaign budget this year on advertising and campaigning.

“We will continue to do all that we can to secure a referendum this year and that’s for a reason: Brexit has put Scotland on the wrong road.

“The further down that road we go, the longer it will take to get back on the right road,” she said, adding that Scotland was “on the cusp” of going its own way.

Sturgeon also said she did not rule out asking for a legal clarification of the Scottish government’s power to hold a consultative referendum if London rejected further requests for another poll. — AFP

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