Scottish Parliament backs holding indyref2 this year

MSPs voted by 64 to 54 for the principle of a referendum but Boris Johnson refuses to allow one.

Scottish Parliament backs holding indyref2 this year Getty Images

The Scottish Parliament has backed the principle of holding a second independence referendum by the end of the year, despite the UK Government’s refusal to grant one.

MSPs voted by 64 to 54 to endorse a Scottish Government motion calling for a new independence vote.

It asks that UK ministers reach an agreement with their Scottish counterparts “on such a referendum taking place on a date and in a manner determined by the Scottish Parliament”.

Nicola Sturgeon has already said she wants to have that ballot in the second half of this year.

MSPs also voted to keep the European flag flying above the parliament building after Brexit takes place on January 31 – by 63 votes to 54.

In both votes, the motions were carried on the strength of SNP votes and those of the pro-independence, pro-EU Scottish Greens.

Opening the debate on indyref2 in Holyrood on Wednesday, the First Minister said giving Scots the option of independence was necessary to protect Scotland from the consequences of Brexit.

She attacked Boris Johnson’s government, accusing the PM and his team of being “completely deaf to Scotland’s interests, needs and voice”.

Sturgeon described their vision for the UK as “driven on the part of some by jingoism and xenophobia”.

The FM branded Brexit an “affront to democracy”, after 62% voters north of the border backed Remain in 2016.

She also highlighted her party’s commitment in the 2016 Holyrood election, just before the Brexit vote, to holding a referendum if there was a “material change” of circumstances like the UK leaving the EU against the wishes of Scots.

The First Minister said: “We stand just two days from losing our EU membership and all of the rights that go with it.

“In my view it is beyond doubt now that the only realistic way for Scotland to return to the heart of Europe and to ensure we get the governments we vote for is to become an independent country.

“What should be beyond any democratic argument, in light of the material change in circumstances that Brexit represents, is that it must be Scotland’s choice to make.

“And it must be for this Parliament, not Westminster, to determine when and on what basis an independence referendum should take place.”

She hit out at the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats for their opposition to an independence ballot, saying: “It is only ever parties that know their arguments are bust that have to resort to blocking democracy.”

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said the debate was a “ridiculous charade” from an government and party “divided” over independence.

He told MSPs: “If only this government spent the same amount of attention on police and schools as it does on polling and spin, we might have the safest streets and the best schools in Europe.

“Instead of a laser-like focus on education, health and the economy, they all have been sidelined in favour of this First Minister’s singular priority.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said dealing with the consequences of Brexit should take priority over an independence vote this year.

He said “nobody in this chamber really believes that there will be a referendum this year”, and dubbed the debate “synthetic, political manufacture, dressed up as high principle”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie claimed the First Minister’s actions were an attempt to appease factions within her own party.

But Green co-leader Patrick Harvie backed Sturgeon, saying Westminster’s blocking of a referendum defied the Scottish legal principle of sovereignty of the people.

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