Anger as Michael Fallon dismisses second referendum

Nationalists mull second poll on independence in response to UK parliamentary vote for Brexit but face stern opposition.

    About 62 percent of Scots chose to remain in the EU [Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]
    About 62 percent of Scots chose to remain in the EU [Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]

    Scottish nationalist politicians have reacted angrily after a senior British minister said the UK would not support a second independence referendum.

    In an interview with Scottish newspaper The Herald on Wednesday, Britain's Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said nationalists could "forget" about UK help for another vote.

    Calls for a second referendum over Scottish independence have increased since Scotland, unlike England, voted to remain in the European Union by a margin of 62 percent to 38.

    "[Nicola Sturgeon] has to respect the decision of Scotland to stay inside the UK in 2014 and the decision of the UK to leave the EU," he said, referring to the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, who is also First Minister in Scotland's devolved parliament.

    Tensions have come to a head as the UK presses forward with a hard exit from the EU, with MPs on Wednesday overwhelmingly voting to initiate Brexit.

    While Scotland voted to remain in the EU, that was not enough to sway the overall UK vote to leave.

    The SNP has made continued membership of the EU, particularly its single market, one of their flagship policies. Its leaders have threatened another independence vote to ensure that Scotland remains.

    Fallon's comments drew angry rebukes from senior Scottish politicians, including Sturgeon.

    READ MORE: Can Nicola Sturgeon turn Brexit into an opportunity?

    "The arrogance of the Tories knows no bounds," a spokesperson for Sturgeon said on Thursday, using another name for the ruling Conservative party.

    "Not content with trying to drag us out of EU against our will, with the support of just one MP out of 59 in Scotland, they are now suggesting they might try to block the nation's right to choose a different path.

    "Any Tory bid to block a referendum would be a democratic outrage, but would only succeed in boosting support for both a referendum and for independence itself."

    While the SNP has strongly opposed Brexit, polls on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom have not shifted after the result of the EU referendum last year; a majority still stand against Scottish independence.

    The University of Edinburgh's Alan Convery, a specialist in UK and Scottish politics, said time was running out for Sturgeon and the SNP to drum up support for independence.

    "This is precisely the type of Brexit that Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to avoid," he told Al Jazeera, referring to British Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for a clean break with the EU, including leaving the single market.

    "The First Minister therefore has a very difficult decision to make about whether to pull the trigger for a second referendum.

    "The opinion polls have not shifted markedly in her favour, but the Brexit timetable is marching on."

    A spokeswoman for May, meanwhile, said on Thursday that the 2014 Scottish referendum was "legal, fair and decisive".

    May has repeatedly said she sees no need for a second vote.

    The UK is heading for a complete break with the EU and is set to leave the single market [EPA]

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.