19:40 GMT18 February 2020
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    British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will formally issue notice under Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon on March 29, triggering Brexit as the war of words between her and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues over a second independence referendum for Scotland.

    Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in a referendum in 2014, but Sturgeon — who leads the Scottish National Part — has called for another referendum of Scotland's membership of the UK following the result of the Brexit referendum, June 2016, which resulted in a mandate for the British Government to leave the European Union.

    However, in the Brexit referendum, although the UK-wide result was 52 percent to leave, in Scotland it was 67.2 to remain, and Sturgeon says she wants a second referendum by the summer of 2019, giving Scotland the chance to leave the United Kingdom and remain part of the EU.

    ​However, her call for a second referendum took some analysts by surprise and the previous thinking was that she would only call for a second one, if the polls showed a lead of more than 10 percent for independence.

    The latest Opinium/Observer poll, March 19, found that 54 percent of people say they believe the chances of the break-up of the UK have increased, but, when asked if they believe Scotland would choose independence if Sturgeon called a second referendum, just 45 percent of Scottish voters said they believe the result will favor independence.

    'Now Is Not the Time'

    Sturgeon will this week call for the Scottish Parliament to set in train a second referendum, largely based on her election manifesto, which stated: "The Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum… if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out the EU against our will."

    ​"If the UK leaves the EU without Scotland indicating beforehand — or at least within a short time after it — that we want a different relationship with Europe, we could face a lengthy period outside not just the EU but also the single market. That could make the task of negotiating a different future much more difficult," she said

    "These considerations lead me to the conclusion that 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 should be offered between the autumn of next year, 2018, and the spring of 2019," she said. 

    However, she was swiftly rebuffed by May, who said "now is not the time" for another referendum, saying that the Brexit negotiations were for the whole of the UK and that holding a referendum would distract from the already fraught negotiating process.

    Sturgeon hit back, saying: "If [May] shows the same condescension and inflexibility, the same tin ear, to other EU countries as she has to Scotland then the Brexit process will hit the rocks."


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    Hard Brexit, Article 50, Brexit, scotland.gov.uk, EU membership, independence referendum, Scottish referendum, European Commission, European Parliament, European Council, European Union, Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May, Britain, United Kingdom, Scotland
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