Scottish Parliament Votes Against U.K. Pulling Brexit Trigger

  • Symbolic vote reminds Premier May of Article 50 opposition
  • Anger at lack of guarantees for EU nationals in Britain

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon listens as the Minister for U.K. Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe Mike Russell speaks during the Scottish Parliament debate on the triggering of Article 50 in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh on Feb. 7.

Photographer: Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

The Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly backed a motion opposing the start of the process for the U.K. to leave the European Union in a gesture against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

Lawmakers in the semi-autonomous legislature in Edinburgh voted by 90 to 34 that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would start Britain’s divorce talks with the EU, should not be triggered.

The needs of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not been properly considered, there are no guarantees for EU nationals living in Britain and there is not enough detail of the implications of policies including leaving the EU’s single market, according to the motion approved on Tuesday.

“This is the Scottish Parliament, the people who voted for us are Scottish people, they expect us to stand up for Scotland,” Scotland’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michael Russell, a member of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party, told lawmakers. He accused May’s Conservative Party of “becoming apologists for a hard, isolated Brexit and a hard, isolated Britain, just what UKIP wanted.”

While the motion is not binding on May and is largely symbolic, it is a reminder from the Edinburgh Parliament that 62 percent of Scots voted to stay in the EU in last year’s referendum. While May has pledged to consult with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish authorities, she needs to do more to satisfy them they are being heard, lawmakers said.

Jackson Carlaw, the deputy leader of the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party, accused the SNP of pursuing a nationalist agenda rather than the interests of Scotland. Sturgeon has kept open the possibility of another vote on Scotland breaking away from the U.K. if it’s pulled out of the single market.

Sturgeon’s party is “chasing a grievance to justify another independence referendum,” Carlaw said. “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, the SNP is unhappy.”

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