POLITICS

Downing Street Refuses To Rule Out 2019 Scottish Independence Referendum

The Scottish Parliament will vote on a referendum motion on Wednesday

20/03/2017 16:34 GMT
Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Theresa May today left the door open for a Scottish referendum in the aftermath of Brexit, as Downing Street refused to rule out a summer 2019 vote.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon today tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament demanding an independence referendum be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Despite the limited timeframe put forward in the motion, Sturgeon has repeatedly claimed over the weekend that she is open to negotiate the timing of the vote – and would be prepared to wait until after the UK has officially left the EU in March 2019.

Asked today whether Theresa May would permit a referendum after spring 2019, her official spokesman repeatedly refused to rule it out.

He said: “The motion that the Scottish Parliament will vote upon was laid this morning and the dates which are within that are between the autumn of 2018 and spring 2019, which is precisely the proposal which the Prime Minister responded to last week.

“She said now is not the time and that remains the case.”

When pressed on May’s response to Sturgeon’s suggestion a vote could be held after Brexit, he replied: “I can only look at the motion laid before the Scottish Parliament which they are going to vote on later this week and that’s what it said.”

After a third attempt to establish the Prime Minister’s position, the spokesman said: “There is a motion laid down by the First Minister this morning which MSPs will vote upon on Wednesday.

“The timeframe set down within that is the timeframe to which the Prime Minister responded last week and she was clear now is not the time to be having a referendum.”

Speaking on Peston on Sunday yesterday, Sturgeon confirmed that while she wanted a second referendum on Scottish independence before the UK officially leaves the EU, she was “happy to have that discussion” on timing.

She said: “I think we should have that choice before Scotland is taken out of the EU and a long period of time elapses, making it much harder for Scotland to try to negotiate a different relationship with Europe.”

Appearing on the BBC’s Westminster Hour last night, SNP MP Stephen Gethins urged Theresa May to negotiate “openly and honestly” with Sturgeon on the referendum date and added: “We’re dealing with reasonable people”.

Members of the Scottish Parliament will debate the motion on a new referendum on Tuesday and Wednesday before holding a vote.