Scotland’s Parliament voted Tuesday to seek a new referendum on independence from Britain, clearing the way for the country’s first minister, its top lawmaker, to ask the British government to approve such a vote.
The legislature in Edinburgh voted 69-59 to seek Britain’s parliamentary endorsement, which is required, for a referendum that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold within two years — before Britain has completed its departure from the 28-nation European Union.
British voters narrowly approved a departure from the EU last year, and London will begin the formal process leading to Britain’s exit from the union on Wednesday.
Despite the overall vote last year in favor of leaving the EU — based on ballots cast in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — nearly two-thirds of Scottish voters elected to remain in the bloc. Since then, Sturgeon has insisted that independence is the only way for Scotland to maintain its formal EU relationship.
Scottish voters chose not to declare independence from London in a referendum three years ago, but that was months before discussions began about Britain’s possible departure from the Brussels-based EU.
Sturgeon has argued that last year’s Brexit vote necessitates a new independence referendum. On Tuesday, she said “it would be democratically indefensible and utterly unsustainable” for London to block a new Scottish vote.
Sturgeon first predicted a push for a new independence referendum last year, hours after British voters elected to leave the EU. She said it would be “unacceptable” for Scotland to be forced to leave the EU along with the rest of Britain, in light of Scots’ strong support for remaining in the bloc.
For her part, British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not support a new Scottish vote until Britain has formally departed the EU — a process of negotiations that experts say could take take several years.
“Now is not the time,” May said of a new Scottish referendum, adding that Britons “should be working together, not pulling apart,” as the Brexit unfolds.