Scotland’s parliament has voted in favour of a call by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for a second referendum on Scottish independence within two years, but the British government has refused to discuss it.
The motion passed 69 votes to 59 on Tuesday and paves the way for the opening of formal talks between Scotland and the British government on the new referendum, coming just three years after Scottish voters rejected independence.
Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from London, said it was “a significant step forward for supporters of Scottish independence in bringing about something that was essentially scuppered back in 2014”.
“For Brexit supporters, it means a massive headache,” he said.
Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), has complained that her efforts to seek a compromise on Britain’s exit from the EU met intransigence from May’s Conservative government.
“Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands,” Sturgeon told lawmakers in the Edinburgh-based parliament.
She told Scottish legislators she would seek to negotiate with the British government “in good faith and with a willingness to compromise”.
Should that fail, she promised to inform the parliament of the next steps next month.
Shortly after the parliament’s approval, the British government said on Tuesday it would not be entering into negotiations on the referendum.
“It would be unfair to the people of Scotland to ask them to make a crucial decision without the necessary information about our future relationship with Europe, or what an independent Scotland would look like,” it said.
Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Edinburgh, said the current public opinion in Scotland on the issue was divided in the middle.
“What people in Scotland want to know is what exactly the relationship with the EU would be in future and whether its worth prioritising staying in the EU over the trade union with the rest of the UK,” he said.
The UK’s vote last year to exit the EU has strained ties between its four constituent parts because England and Wales voted to leave while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.