Scottish vote to air opposition to Brexit

Scottish parliament will press ahead with a vote to voice its dissent, the UK government has no compulsion to listen

Afp February 07, 2017
A woman holds up a placard at a demonstration by Pro EU campaigners. PHOTO: AFP

EDINBURGH: The Scottish parliament is expected to officially register its opposition to the British government's march towards Brexit on Tuesday in a vote that will further strain the bonds of the United Kingdom.

Scotland's nationalist government has said the vote will be one of the most significant in the devolved parliament's 18-year history.

British lawmakers are currently debating a bill to start the country's withdrawal from the European Union, but the Scottish government says the draft legislation should not proceed as Edinburgh has received no commitment that it will be effectively consulted on the exit terms.

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Scotland was told it would be an "equal partner" in the British union if it rejected independence, which it did by 55 per cent in a 2014 referendum. Twenty months later Scotland voted to remain in the EU by 62 per cent, but it was outvoted by England which has a vastly larger population.

Northern Ireland voted to stay in the bloc while Wales went with Leave in the June referendum, resulting in Brexit succeeding overall with 52 per cent of the vote.

British judges ruled in January that a convention designed to deter London from imposing laws on Scotland carried no legal force, clearing the way for the UK government to trigger Brexit without consulting Edinburgh.

MPs rejected amendments to the Brexit bill late on Monday night which called for greater involvement of the devolved administrations. Lawmakers voted against guaranteeing they be consulted before Prime Minister Theresa May signs any agreements with Brussels, or delaying starting exit proceedings until at least one month after the devolved administrations have agreed to a UK strategy.

The Scottish parliament will press ahead with a vote to voice its dissent, but the UK government has no compulsion to listen. "This is one of the most significant votes in the history of the Scottish parliament since devolution," said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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"This vote is far more than symbolic. It is a key test of whether Scotland's voice is being listened to and whether our wishes can be accommodated within the UK process," added Sturgeon, who is also the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Scottish Labour has additionally voiced its opposition to the UK bill, giving the Scottish government enough votes to get its motion through parliament, but party leader Kezia Dugdale has urged the SNP to stop using Brexit to agitate for independence.

A British government spokesperson said: "The UK government will continue our engagement with the Scottish government and with people and groups across Scotland as we prepare to leave the EU to secure the best deal for Scotland and the UK."


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