ABERDEEN, Scotland, March 18 Nicola Sturgeon
will press on with plans to hold a new Scottish independence
referendum and said on Saturday that a continued refusal by
Britain's prime minister to discuss the matter would "shatter
beyond repair" the United Kingdom's constitutional structure.
Scotland's first minister expects to get authorisation from
the devolved parliament on Wednesday to seek a new vote on
independence from the UK, a vote which needs to be signed off by
London to be legally binding. Sturgeon is seeking to do so once
the terms for Brexit are clear but before Britain leaves the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May has told Sturgeon that "now is
not the time" for a new vote on independence. But ignoring
Scotland's democratic wish would send the United Kingdom as a
constitutional structure into crisis, Sturgeon will say
according to a text of a speech on Saturday.
"To stand in defiance of (Scottish parliamentary
authorisation) would be for the Prime Minister to shatter beyond
repair any notion of the UK as a respectful partnership of
equals," she will tell her Scottish National Party conference.
Theresa May, immersed in the huge complexities of Britain's
decision to leave the European Union, could yet change her mind,
"She has time to think again and I hope she does. If her
concern is timing then -- within reason -- I am happy to have
that discussion," Sturgeon will say.
Last June's vote to leave the EU has altered the political
landscape and shaken the ties of the United Kingdom's four
nations. England, the UK's most populous nation, and Wales voted
to leave while the Scots and the Northern Irish wanted to keep
their EU membership.
While Sturgeon, who leads the devolved government, told
Scottish television on Friday that she still has "options" if
May refuses to acknowledge her mandate, she was unwilling to say
what those options were.
There has been talk by delegates at the conference of the
possibility of a consultative referendum, that is, a poll not
authorised by the British parliament which is sovereign on
issues regarding the constitution.
"This is a step by step process. If we send an envelope to
May and she returns it unopened, then we have the UK government
not talking to the Scottish government," said a senior SNP
source. "That is a constitutional crisis, or something very
close to it," the source said.
Scottish voters rejected independence in 2014 by a 10
percentage point margin. But Sturgeon was elected last year on a
manifesto which included the possibility of a new independence
vote if there were a material change in circumstances "such as
Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will."
"We can still decide which path we take," Sturgeon will tell
the conference. "Whatever our different opinions on
independence, we can all unite around this simple
principle: Scotland's future must be Scotland's choice."
(Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Hugh Lawson)