Scotland's leader delivered a shock twist to Britain's EU exit drama on Monday, announcing that she will seek authority to hold a new independence referendum in the next two years because Britain is dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that she would move quickly to give voters a new chance to leave the United Kingdom because Scotland was being forced into a "hard Brexit" that it didn't vote for, the AP reports. Britons decided in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU, but Scots voted by 62% to 38% to remain. Scotland must not be "taken down a path that we do not want to go down without a choice," Sturgeon said. She spoke in Edinburgh as Britain's Parliament was on the verge of approving a Brexit bill that will allow the UK to start the formal withdrawal from the EU within days.
Sturgeon said she would ask the Scottish Parliament next week to start the process of calling a referendum, to be held between the fall of 2018 and the spring of 2019. The British government must agree before a legally binding referendum can be held. It didn't say Monday whether it would do so, but said an independence ballot "would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time." In a 2014 referendum, Scottish voters rejected independence by a margin of 55% to 45%. But Sturgeon said that the UK's decision to leave the EU had brought about a "material change of circumstances." Sturgeon is taking a big gamble. Although the prospect of Brexit has likely boosted support for independence, polls do not indicate it has majority backing. And there is no guarantee that the EU would allow an independent Scotland to remain a member. (Read more Scotland stories.)