May Attacks Scots for ‘Game-Playing’ Independence Referendum Bid

  • ‘Now it seems a generation lasts three years,’ premier says
  • May indicates it’s too soon for second vote after 2014 defeat

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May rejected Scotland’s case for holding an independence referendum and accused its leaders of reneging on promises, preparing the ground for delaying a second plebiscite.

May said polling data showed the majority of Scots don’t want another referendum, following the defeat of 2014. She cited former First Minister Alex Salmond as touting that plebisicite as "a once in a generation vote.”

“Now it seems a generation lasts three years," May told the House of Commons, accusing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of toying with voters.  “I don’t want to see anybody constitutional game-playing with the future of the United Kingdom."

Brexit and May’s commitment to pull Britain out of the single market are the reasons Sturgeon gave to justify seeking a second vote. For May, it would mean fighting to keep Scotland in the union while trying to hash out a divorce from the European Union that won’t cripple trade.

“May would like the referendum to take place after Brexit has been negotiated,” said Wyn Grant, professor of politics at Warwick University. “That’s doable.”

Scotland needs approval from the U.K. to go ahead with the vote, which it secured last time from May’s predecessor, David Cameron, who also called the June referendum on leaving the EU. The Scots, who rejected independence by 55 percent to 45 percent, voted overwhelmingly against Brexit.

Sturgeon wants to be able to offer Scots the choice between leaving the EU with Britain, or becoming an independent nation with access to the EU’s single market. Salmond told Bloomberg Television that Scotland could join a parallel trade association that includes Norway and Iceland to preserve some rights.

May’s spokesman yesterday declined to say whether the government would allow a referendum, pointing out that the Scottish parliament won’t consider Sturgeon’s request until next week. The government will provide details, he said, once that step has been taken.

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