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Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon again offers to vote for independence

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LONDON — Scottish nationalist lawmakers have reignited the independence kick-off and set up a potential clash with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, saying they will plan to hold another public referendum on breaking with the United Kingdom.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday presented proposals for a ‘renewed case for independence’, launching the first of several policy papers that argue for the country’s devolved Parliament to hold a vote – possibly without UK government consent, which London says is legally required.

“Scotland under Westminster control is restrained”, Sturgeon Told journalists. “For Scotland, independence will put in our hands the levers that determine success.”

Scotland’s last independence referendum was in 2014, when the majority of Scots (55%) voted to stay in the UK.

However, Sturgeon’s pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) and its pro-independence allies won a majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2021. The SNP governs with the support of the Green Party.

“The people of Scotland have elected a Scottish Parliament with a decisive majority in favor of both independence and the right to choose. The Scottish Parliament therefore has an indisputable democratic mandate, and we intend to honor it,” she told reporters in Edinburgh.

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The UK’s divorce from the European Union was also a game-changer, Sturgeon argues. Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, 62% to 38%, in the 2016 referendum, which it said left Scotland at a “critical moment”.

The SNP has previously said it wants to hold a new independence vote by the end of 2023.

Johnson strongly opposes another referendum and said on Tuesday that an “independence decision was made by the people of Scotland only a few years ago in recent memory.” I think we should respect that.

He said all UK governments should focus on the cost of living crisis and the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic, urging Sturgeon and other lawmakers to “focus on the things that people really want us to deal with”.

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Sturgeon acknowledged that Johnson’s government would likely oppose any effort by the Scottish Parliament to call for a binding referendum without a special order granted by Westminster, but she said that would not deter lawmakers.

“Democracy under the rule of law is the way in which differences of political or constitutional opinion should always be resolved,” she said. “If we want to maintain democracy here in Scotland, we have to forge a way forward. … However, we have to do it in a legal way.

Such a vote could break the more than 300-year-old union between Scotland and England. Wales and Northern Ireland also have smaller, devolved parliaments in the UK. They legislate on issues such as education and health care, but depend on Westminster for most funding and other major functions, such as defence.

John Curtice, a leading Scottish pollster and professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told the BBC on Tuesday that opinion polls were essentially “split down the middle”.

“If you take the last half dozen polls, they say on average 48 yes, 52 no,” he said on the independence issue. “Both sides need to campaign because at the moment neither side in the dispute can be sure of winning.”

Some Scottish newspapers accused Sturgeon on Wednesday of bowing to pressure to “appease his political base”, and opposition lawmakers called his announcement a distraction.

“The same old Nicola Sturgeon speech,” said Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar. “It is she who brings us back to the politics of the past, focusing on division and conflict and trying to pit Scot against Scot.”