EDINBURGH Scotland’s devolved government has shelved its immediate plans to hold a second independence referendum until after the terms of Britain’s exit from the United Kingdom are clear, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday.
The Scottish parliament in March backed Sturgeon’s bid to hold a new referendum in 2018 or early 2019, but British Prime Minister Theresa May had refused to enter into discussions on the proposal.
“We will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately,” she said, adding that she would still aim to offer a new vote on secession after it was clear what Britain’s decision to leave the European Union meant.
Scots voted against independence by 55 to 45 percent in 2014 but Sturgeon has argued the Brexit vote changed circumstances because Scots voted overwhelmingly against leaving the EU and they should not be dragged out against their will.
However, she had been under pressure to put off a new referendum because of her party’s weak performance in a national election earlier this month.
She told the Scottish assembly she had listened carefully to those who were concerned about Brexit but had not wanted another independence vote immediately. She said a choice still needed to be offered, but the timing needed to be more cautious.
Brexit has strained relations between Britain’s four nations because Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to keep EU membership while England and Wales voted to leave.
(Writing by Elisabeth O’Leary and Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)