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No rational reason to block independence referendum, Sturgeon letter warns PM

Nicola Sturgeon has said there is "no rational reason" for the UK Government to block a second Scottish independence referendum in a letter requesting the power to hold another vote.

Scotland's First Minister has written to Prime Minister Theresa May with a formal request for a Section 30 order, the mechanism to transfer the powers to hold a referendum to Holyrood.

MSPs voted by 69 to 59 this week in favour of seeking permission for an independence referendum to take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

The UK Government has said it will decline the request, with Mrs May repeatedly stating "now is not the time" for another vote on the issue.

In a letter sent by email and courier to Downing Street, Ms Sturgeon told Mrs May: "There appears to be no rational reason for you to stand in the way of the will of the Scottish Parliament and I hope you will not do so.

"However, in anticipation of your refusal to enter into discussions at this stage, it is important for me to be clear about my position.

"It is my firm view that the mandate of the Scottish Parliament must be respected and progressed. The question is not if, but how."

About 62% of Scottish voters backed Remain in the EU referendum and the SNP's manifesto for last year's Holyrood elections said another ballot on independence should take place if there were a ''material change in circumstances'' from the previous ballot in 2014 such as Scotland being removed from the EU against its wishes.

"In these very changed circumstances, the people of Scotland must have the right to choose our own future - in short, to exercise our right of self determination," the letter said.

In a video message posted by the Scottish Government on Twitter, Ms Sturgeon added: "The Prime Minister has indicated that she intends to ignore the will of the Scottish Parliament and seek to prevent people in Scotland having that choice.

"If the Westminster government continues to hold that line, it will go against the very foundations of devolution.

"So, I hope the Prime Minister changes her mind and acknowledges that the people of Scotland are entitled to a choice at a time and in a way that is right for Scotland.

"However, if she doesn't, as I expect she won't, at least not yet, I will come back to the Scottish Parliament in a few weeks' time with an update on how we're going to move forward to ensure that the people of Scotland are able to choose our future when we have the information we need both about Brexit and about independence, and while there is still time to take a different path."

Downing Street confirmed that the letter was received by email and a response would be sent in due course.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister has been clear that now is not the time for a second independence referendum and we will not be entering into negotiations on the Scottish Government's proposal.

"At this point, all our focus should be on our negotiations with the European Union, making sure we get the right deal for the whole of the UK.

"It would be unfair to the people of Scotland to ask them to make a crucial decision without the necessary information about our future relationship with Europe or what an independent Scotland would look like.

"We have been joined together as one country for more than 300 years. We've worked together, we've prospered together, we've fought wars together and we have a bright future.

"At this crucial time we should be working together, not pulling apart."

Scottish Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians oppose another referendum.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: " Scotland doesn't need or want a second independence referendum.

"There is absolutely no evidence that another divisive referendum is the will of the people of Scotland. We need the SNP government to get on with the job of governing."

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "At the very moment we should be uniting as a country to get the good deal out of Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon is trying to divide us again. Her plans are unwanted and unworkable.

"Nicola Sturgeon should dump her referendum plans now, work to get the best possible Brexit deal for Scotland and the UK - and then get back to the day job of improving our schools and hospitals, as she promised."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "There will be many voters who voted to remain in the EU who will be feeling betrayed by the SNP who are simply using Brexit for their own ends. It's shameless.

"Yesterday we saw the unveiling of a mental health strategy that completely lacked ambition and is a symptom of a Government obsessed with constitutional issues rather than addressing the day job."

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