Theresa May rules out Scottish independence referendum until after Brexit

Posted On: 
16th March 2017

Theresa May today ruled out a second referendum on Scottish independence until after Britain has left the European Union.

Theresa May has rejected Nicola Sturgeon's call for a referendum within two years.
Credit: 
PA Images

In a dramatic move, the Prime Minister flatly rejected Nicola Sturgeon's call earlier this week for a fresh vote on breaking up the United Kingdom some time between autumn, 2018, and spring, 2019.

She said it "wouldn't be fair" to ask Scottish people to vote on independence without knowing exactly what Brexit will mean.

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Mrs May's comments mean any referendum is unlikely to take place ahead of the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

Speaking to ITV News, the Prime Minister said: "Just at this point, all our energies should be focused on our negotiations with the European Union about our future relationship.

"To be talking about an independence referendum will make it more difficult for us to be able to get the right deal for Scotland, and the right deal for the UK. And more than that, I think it wouldn't be fair to the people of Scotland because they're being asked to make a crucial decision without all the necessary information - without knowing what the future partnership would be, or what the alternative of an independent Scotland would look like."

She added: "We should be working together, not pulling apart. Now is not the time.

"This union we have is very precious. We've been joined together for over 300 years. We've had a great history together - I believe we have a great future together.

"Together, we should put our energies into making sure we get the right deal for Scotland and for the whole of the UK."

Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson will also hold a news conference in Edinburgh this afternoon to further explain the Government's position.

On Monday, Ms Sturgeon said Scottish voters must be given the choice of whether to "follow the UK to a hard Brexit or to become an independent country".

She said she would make a formal request to Westminster for Holyrood to be given the legal power to hold a referendum - known as a Section 30 order - next week.

"I will continue to stand up for Scotland's interests during the process of Brexit negotiations," she said.

"I will now take the steps necessary to make sure that Scotland will have a choice at the end of this process, a choice of whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit or to become an independent country, able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the UK and our own relationship with Europe."

The First Minister added: "If Scotland is to have a real choice when the terms of Brexit are known but before it is too late to choose our own course then that choice must be offered between the autumn of next year, 2018, and the spring of 2019." 

But a senior Conservative source told PoliticsHome it would be wrong to hold a referendum before the full picture of what Brexit will mean for the UK is known.

"It's not fair to have a referendum at a point where people don't know what the alternatives are, and therefore it can't be considered until after the Brexit process is completed - and nobody knows when that will be," the source said. "We've no idea what the Nat position is and we don't know what Brexit will look like either."