Scottish leader unveils new plan for independence from Brexit Britain

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been a vocal critic of London's handling of the June 23 referendum which saw Britain vote to leave the European Union (AFP Photo/Andy Buchanan)

Next week the Scottish government will publish a bill laying the groundwork for a new independence referendum, the country's leader announced Thursday — the first step toward a new vote on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom. Speaking at the start of her Scottish National Party's semiannual conference, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raised the prospect of a second independence referendum by 2019, accusing the British government of ignoring Scotland's interests by pursuing a "hard" exit from the European Union. She said if Britain leaves the EU's enormous single market of 500 million consumers, "Scotland will have the right to decide, afresh, if it wants to take a different path."

A U.K. out of the single market — isolated, inward looking, hemorrhaging jobs, investment and opportunities — will not be the same country that Scotland voted to stay part of in 2014.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland

Scottish voters rejected independence in 2014 by 55 percent to 45 percent, but Britain's June 23 vote to leave the European Union has reopened the Scotland question. By a large majority, Scots backed remaining in the EU, but they were outnumbered by a majority in England who wanted to leave. Sturgeon has been a vocal critic of London's handling of the referendum and has been increasingly scathing about British Prime Minister Theresa May's preparations for Brexit. She said May's Conservative government must give Scotland's Edinburgh-based Parliament "substantial additional powers," including power over immigration, if it wants to keep Scotland in the U.K.

In 2014, you told us Scotland was an equal partner in the U.K. Well, the moment has come to prove it.

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Another referendum?

A new Scottish referendum is not a certainty. Opinion polls suggest that there is not yet a majority in favor of independence. The latest poll, conducted by BMG and released on Thursday, found 47 percent of people are against a second independence referendum, compared with 38 percent in favor and 15 percent undecided.

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