In Summary
  • Sturgeon caught the British government off-guard on Monday when she demanded a new referendum by early 2019 at the latest.
  • Scotland's relationship with the EU is at the forefront of the SNP's renewed call for independence.

ABERDEEN

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will ramp up pressure on the British government to grant a new secession referendum as she rallies her independence-hungry foot soldiers on Saturday.

Sturgeon was to address a conference of her Scottish National Party (SNP) in the northeastern oil city of Aberdeen, with members fired up by her push for a second vote on pulling Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

Sturgeon caught the British government off-guard on Monday when she demanded a new referendum by early 2019 at the latest, just before the UK is expected to leave the European Union.

In response, British Prime Minister Theresa May said "now is not the time" for another referendum, arguing all energies should be devoted to getting a good Brexit deal for the UK as a whole.

"The people of Scotland have a right to take their future into their own hands," 70-year-old SNP member Tony Martin told AFP outside the Aberdeen conference, wearing a sandwich board with the names of all the political parties and groups supporting independence.

"We don't want to go down on the Good Ship Brexit," said Martin, who lives in Gullane near Edinburgh but is originally from Leeds in northern England.

The Scottish parliament is widely expected to back Sturgeon's call in a vote next week.

"The will of our parliament must and will prevail," Sturgeon was expected to tell the party faithful later on Saturday, according to extracts from her speech.

"To stand in defiance... would be for the prime minister to shatter beyond repair any notion of the UK as a respectful partnership of equals."

OBSESSIVE NATIONALISM
But she is also letting it be known that she would be "up for continued discussion" with May regarding the timing of a referendum.

In Scotland's 2014 plebiscite, 55 per cent backed staying in the UK. But the SNP says the political landscape has dramatically changed since then.

It argues the vote was based on expectations that the UK would remain in the EU, retaining its unhampered access to the European market and the right of job mobility.

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