Scotland is having second thoughts about holding a second referendum on independence.
Nicola Sturgeon, the head of the pro-independence Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland’s regional assembly, pushed back the timetable for a fresh vote, acknowledging that she would have to let the U.K.’s negotiations on leaving the European Union run their course first.
Sturgeon’s about turn comes after the SNP lost heavily in the U.K.’s general election in June. Having swept almost all the districts it contested in 2015, it lost 21 of its 56 seats on June 8, squeezed by both the left-wing Labour Party and by the Conservatives of Theresa May. Both had pledged to push ahead with ‘Brexit’, whereas Sturgeon’s SNP wants to remain in the EU.
The SNP had lost the first independence referendum it called by a 45%-55% margin in 2014. But Sturgeon had said before this year’s snap election she would seek a second vote on independence no later than the spring of 2019, just as the U.K.’s haggling with the EU over the terms of their separation is scheduled to reach its climax. Her aim was to put the maximum pressure on Theresa May to ensure that Scots kept the right to live and work in the EU and have full access to its market after 2019. For May, such outcomes are secondary to controlling immigration.
“The mandate we have is beyond doubt,” Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament. “But deciding exactly how and when to exercise it is a matter of judgment.”
“She appears to be in denial over her mistakes in the past year,” said Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. “Her response has simply been to lash out at the U.K. government at every opportunity and to sing the same old songs in the same old tune.”