First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she would consider holding a second referendum on Scottish independence in 2017 if necessary.
Sturgeon said Sunday the next referendum could happen if the UK government started to leave the European Union without Scotland’s position being safeguarded.
When asked about her position should article 50 be triggered in December – without the Scottish government being “on board”, Sturgeon said that was why she was making preparations for a second independence referendum.
“Of course at that point that would be an option and a decision that I would have to consider,” she said.
The UK should invoke Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty in order to set out a two-year timetable for negotiations on its exit from the EU.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May assured Sturgeon during her first official visit to Edinburgh last Friday that she would not trigger article 50 until “a UK-wide approach” had been agreed for negotiations to leave the EU.
During the meeting, May appeared unwilling to consider a second referendum on Scottish independence, saying people in Scotland sent a “very clear message” in 2014.
When asked if she would be happy to have an independence referendum in the first half of 2017, Sturgeon said, “I will have an independence referendum if I come to conclusion that is in the best interests of Scotland.”
“I’ve always said that. It would be up to Scottish people ultimately to decide if that is right way to go,” she said.
She added that if a referendum was going to be held it would make sense for that to happen before the UK left the EU.
Sturgeon said that while May’s assurances about her commitment to reaching a UK-wide approach on Brexit before triggering article 50 put the Scottish government in a strong position, “veto … is not a word I’m going to use”.
In a June 23 referendum, Britain voted 52-48 percent to leave the EU. Scotland, however, voted 62-38 percent to remain in the bloc.
European leaders, who had urged the UK to remain in the bloc, are now pressing it to set out a quick timetable for its exit in order to prevent a long period of “uncertainty.”