LONDON — Nicola Sturgeon has dropped a big hint that autumn 2018 is when she plans to hold another referendum on Scottish independence.
In a BBC interview that will be aired on Thursday night, the First Minister of Scotland said that it would be “common sense” to hold another referendum in around 18 months time as the terms of Britain’s Brexit deal will be clearer.
“Within that window, of when the outline of a UK deal becomes clear and the UK exiting the EU, I think would be a common sense time for Scotland to have that choice, if that is the road we choose to go down,” she told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
SNP leader Sturgeon has yet to confirm that she will be asking Westminster to grant the Scottish people another vote on independence but the fact that she is openly discussing potential timings suggests that it is more than likely.
Interestingly, an autumn 2018 referendum would take place midway through Britain’s exit talks with the European Union, which suggests that Sturgeon feels the “yes” vote would have a better chance of winning before Article 50 talks are concluded.
The SNP’s economic spokesman Stewart Hosie this week appeared to declare support for the idea of an autumn 2018 referendum, telling the BBC that it would “make sense” to hold another Scotland-wide vote in this window.
Sturgeon is keen to deliver on her long-standing promise that Scotland will be given another opportunity to vote on independence from the rest of the UK if the country embarks on a “hard” Brexit from the 28-nation bloc.
Scotland voted to remain in the EU by 62% to 38% in the June referendum.
Speaking in October, the SNP leader said: “We will propose new powers to help keep Scotland in the single market even if the UK leaves. But if the Tory government rejects these efforts — if it insists on taking Scotland down a path that hurts our economy, costs jobs, lowers our living standards and damages our reputation as an open, welcoming, diverse country — then be in no doubt.
“Scotland must have the ability to choose a better future. And I will make sure that Scotland gets that chance.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to keep the union together but her plan to wrench Britain from both the European single market and customs union has fuelled the SNP’s claim for a second independence referendum.
The SNP is also concerned that the UK government will embark on a “power grab” after Brexit by taking control of policies that are vital to Scotland — like fisheries and agriculture — rather than devolving control of these policies to the Scottish government.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson made no effort to rule out a power grab when she told the Times that issues like how cash for Scottish farmers would be raised would be up for debate.
Davidson said: “So does it come out of the Scottish parliament’s budget, and they have to levy additional taxation for that? Or are we assuming that’s coming from the Treasury? If it does come from the Treasury are we talking about where it’s administrated?”
“All these things are absolutely legitimate questions and they are questions we need to answer in quite a mature fashion about where it best lies.”
All recent polls indicate that the Scottish public would choose to stay in the UK given another opportunity to vote.
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