Nicola Sturgeon has said she plans to trigger another Scottish independence referendum - and that she expects to win.
Speaking in Edinburgh on Monday morning, Scotland’s first minister said she wanted the vote to be held between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019.
Sturgeon said she will next week ask the Scottish Parliament to approve the necessary Section 30 order from Westminster.
She said the Brexit vote meant there had been a “material change or circumstances” which justified a second referendum so soon after the 2014 poll.
The SNP leader told a hastily arranged press conference Theresa May had failed to “compromise” over her Brexit strategy.
The prime minister said that a second independence referendum would set the country on course for “uncertainty and division”:
Sturgeon’s announcement came as the law giving the prime minister the power to start Britain’s divorce from the EU is expected to clear its final Parliamentary hurdle later today.
This would make it possible for May to trigger Article 50 before the end of March as planned.
Scotland voted 62% to 38% in favour of remaining in the EU at the referendum while the UK as a whole voted to leave.
Sturgeon said the choice for Scottish voters was now between a so-called hard Brexit and independence.
“I think it is right for Scotland to have a choice,” she said. “It would be wrong for Scotland to be taken down a path which it has no control over.”
The Scottish government must win the approval of the House of Commons and House of Lords as well as the parliament in Holyrood to hold a fresh vote.
Sturgeon said there would be a “furious reaction” in Scotland if Westminster blocked a second referendum.
Asked if she believed Scots would vote in favour of independence, unlike in 2014, Sturgeon said “yes, I do”.
In a statement, May said politics was “not a game” and accused Sturgeon of “playing politics with the future of our country”. She added:
“As we negotiate to leave the European Union I want to negotiate an agreement that is going to work for the whole of the United Kingdom and that includes the Scottish people. That’s why we’ve been working closely with the devolved administrations, we’ve been listening to their proposals and recognising the many areas of common ground that we have, such as protecting workers’ rights and our security from crime and terrorism.
“The tunnel vision that the SNP has shown today is deeply regrettable. It sets Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division, creating huge uncertainty. And this is at a time when the evidence is that the Scottish people, the majority of the Scottish people, do not want a second independence referendum.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said independence would be a “catastrophe” for Scotland’s economy,
But he indicated Labour in Westminster would not stand in the way of a referendum, he said:
“The 2014 Scottish Independence referendum was billed as a once in a generation event. The result was decisive and there is no appetite for another referendum.
“Labour believes it would be wrong to hold another so soon and Scottish Labour will oppose it in the Scottish parliament. If, however, the Scottish parliament votes for one, Labour will not block that democratic decision at Westminster. If there is another referendum, Labour will oppose independence because it is not in the interests of any part of the country to break up the UK.”
But Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said while the party would not oppose granting permission for a second referendum in Westminster, it would in Holyrood.
“Scotland is already divided enough. We do not want to be divided again, but that is exactly what another independence referendum would do. Two years ago, 85 per cent of Scotland’s voters took part in the independence referendum and the result was a clear vote to remain in the UK,” she said.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said her party would also try to block a second referendum.
In her speech today, Sturgeon said: “The Scottish Government’s mandate for offering this choice is beyond doubt.
“So next week I will seek the approval of the Scottish Parliament to open discussions with the UK Government on the details of a Section 30 order – the procedure that will enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum.
“The UK Government was clear in 2014 that an independence referendum should be, in their words, ‘made in Scotland, by the people of Scotland’ – that is a principle that should be respected today.
“The detailed arrangements for a referendum – including its timing – should be for the Scottish Parliament to decide.
“It is important that Scotland is able to exercise the right to choose our own future at a time when the options are clearer than they are now, but before it is too late to decide on our own path.
“By the time a choice comes to be made, there must be greater clarity about Brexit and its implications for us.
“Scotland stands at a hugely important crossroads. On the eve of Article 50 being triggered, not only is there no UK wide agreement on the way ahead – the UK Government has not moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement.
“All of our efforts at compromise have been met with a brick wall of intransigence.
“UK membership of the single market was ruled out with no prior consultation with the Scottish Government or with the other devolved administrations, leaving us facing not just Brexit, but a hard Brexit.”