SCOTLAND POLITICS: Scoxit Referendum: Theresa May Says ‘Now is Not the Time’
Theresa May has said that “now is not the time” for a second referendum on Scottish independence. But the prime minister did not say whether she was ruling out holding a referendum at some point in the future.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for a referendum to be held in the autumn of 2018 or the spring of the following year.
Speaking after Mrs May’s statement, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said that timetable would be rejected. Speaking at a media conference in Edinburgh, Ms Davidson said the people of Scotland should have the right to see how the UK was working after leaving the EU before deciding whether or not they wanted independence. And she said Ms Sturgeon’s SNP had to “earn the right” to hold another referendum.
Ms Sturgeon tweeted that the Conservatives “fear the verdict of the Scottish people”.
And a spokesman for the Scottish government said blocking a second referendum would be a “democratic outrage” and a “miscalculation and blunder of epic and historical proportions”.
Mrs May said her focus was to seek the best deal possible for the whole of the UK, including Scotland, in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations with the EU.
She said: “So when the SNP government say that now is the time to start talking about a second independence referendum, I say that just at this point all of our energies should be focused on our negotiations with the European Union about our future relationship.
“To be talking about an independence referendum would I think make it more difficult for us to be able to get the right deal for Scotland and the right deal for the UK.”
What we heard from Theresa May was a very carefully calibrated rebuff to Nicola Sturgeon – but not to the Scottish people.
You sense that Mrs May is trying to drive a wedge between the two. She’s rejected the first minister’s call for a referendum before Brexit, saying all our energies now need to be focused on getting the best deal.
But the prime minister is absolutely not ruling out a referendum in the future.
Now may not be the time – but she’s not saying never.
The prime minister added: “My message is clear – now is not the time.
“I think we should be working to get the right deal for Scotland and the UK with our future partnership with the European Union. It would be unfair to the people of Scotland that they would be being asked to make a crucial decision without the information they need to make that decision.”
The prime minister also said the country should be “working together, not pulling apart”.
Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to remain in the UK in a referendum in September 2014 – but Ms Sturgeon says a second vote is needed to allow the country to choose what path to take following last year’s Brexit vote.
She has said she wants a new vote to be held before a deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union is finalised.
Speaking at the weekly first minister’s questions session in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday morning, Ms Sturgeon defended her position by saying the UK voting to leave the EU was a “disaster” and she had a “duty to allow people to opt for something better”.
MSPs are due to vote next Wednesday on whether to seek a section 30 order from the UK government, which would be needed to make any referendum legally binding.
The parliament currently has a pro-independence majority, with the Scottish Greens pledging to support the minority SNP government in next week’s vote.
Ms Sturgeon issued a direct challenge to the Conservatives, asking:
“If on Wednesday next week this parliament votes for an independence referendum to give the people of Scotland a choice over their own future, will the Conservatives respect the will of this parliament or are the Conservatives running scared?”