Scottish lawmakers have backed calls by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for a second independence referendum to separate from the UK, just one day before London triggers two years of negotiations on withdrawing from the European Union.
Lawmakers from the Green Party joined forces with members of the Scottish National Party to back Sturgeon’s controversial measure, which passed with 69 votes to 59. The vote has triggered an official request from the UK government for talks over a Section 30 order, the legal mechanism used to transfer the powers from London to Edinburgh for a referendum, preferably in late 2018 or early 2019.
Speaking in the semi-autonomous Scottish Parliament at the start of Tuesday’s debate, Sturgeon called on lawmakers to vote in favor of a new independence referendum. Scotland held its first referendum in 2014, when over 55 percent of the people voted against independence.
Talks of a new referendum gained momentum following a spat between Britain and Scotland over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Although nearly 52 percent of Britons opted to leave the bloc during the EU referendum in June last year, some 62 percent of the Scottish people voted against the decision.
Sturgeon is trying to build support among the Scottish public for another independence referendum after an earlier vote was defeated in 2014. Sturgeon said last week that she’s open to discussions on the timing of the vote if the British government presents “a clear alternative and the rationale for it.” However, she insisted that she has a mandate to call a referendum because Brexit means the status quo is no longer an option.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly insisted that now is not the time for another independence referendum and that all efforts should be on securing the best Brexit deal for the whole of Britain after Article 50 is triggered on Wednesday.