Scottish parliament gives green light to negotiate second independence referendum

29 Mar 17

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – MEDIUM

The Scottish parliament has voted in favor of a second independence referendum.

The vote came a day before the United Kingdom invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to formally begin the process of leaving the European Union and gave First Minister Nicola Sturgeon authority to negotiate with the U.K. over an independence vote.

Sturgeon remains at odds with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, however. Sturgeon has said she will push for a vote at some point in late 2018 or early 2019, before the U.K. leaves the EU but after it becomes clear what the terms of departure will be. May has said “now is not the time” to discuss a second independence referendum.

Key Points:

  •  Scotland voted against independence in 2014, with 55 percent voting to remain part of the U.K. That was before the U.K.’s Brexit referendum in June 2016, in which a strong majority of Scottish voters favored remaining in the EU.
  •  The U.K.’s Supreme Court ruled in January that the U.K.’s membership in the EU is a matter for Parliament in Westminster, and not one of the devolved issues on which the Scottish legislature can have a direct influence.
  •  Sturgeon said earlier this month that she would push for a second independence referendum. The BBC reported Tuesday that Sturgeon is open to negotiating the timing of the referendum, but that if Westminster refused to negotiate on an independence vote she will return to the Scottish Parliament in April to discuss next steps.

BAL Analysis: Scottish independence offers a possibility of greater protection for European migrants in Scotland and the continuation of free movement. It also opens the door for a revised immigration policy for all foreign nationals, as Scotland’s specific immigration needs and demand for workers both in lesser populated areas and in key industries such as the North Sea oil and gas industry have often not been met by the U.K.’s more restrictive immigration policies. That said, any potential second independence vote will not occur for at least 18 months, and there are no immediate immigration impacts to the Scottish parliament’s vote Tuesday. While the strength of anti-Brexit feeling may increase the odds of a Scottish independence vote passing, many steps remain before a second referendum can be put before voters.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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