London, March 13 (IANS) Scotland's First Minister on Monday announced she would consult the Westminster government for permission to hold a second independence referendum within the next two years.
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, made the announcement at a press conference in the First Minister's official Bute House residence in Edinburgh, EFE news reported.
"I will take the steps necessary to make sure that Scotland will have a choice at the end of this process: the choice of whether to follow the United Kingdom to a hard Brexit, or become an independent country," she told the press.
Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of retaining membership of the European Union in the June 2016 referendum, but was set to withdraw along with the rest of the UK as voters in England and Wales tipped the overall balance by voting to leave.
She went on: "I will seek the approval of the Scottish Parliament to open discussions with the UK government on the details of a Section 30 order -- the procedure that will enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum."
The SNP leader said the independence ballot would take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 and would involve a simple 'yes' or 'no' option.
Some 55 per cent of Scottish voters chose 'no' in a binding 2014 referendum asking whether the nation should be independent, but a clause behind that vote stipulated that Edinburgh could call a second vote if Scotland's circumstances -- such as its EU status -- changed.
In London, the final details of a Brexit bill were being hammered out in a parliamentary debate with the UK Prime Minister Theresa May widely expected to trigger the official mechanism, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, as early as Tuesday, EFE news added.
Responding to the announcement from Edinburgh, May's spokesman said: "Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time."
He said there was no desire for another independence referendum in Scotland.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, reiterated that opinion.
He said Labour would oppose referendum but would not stand in the way of a democratic vote should it come to pass.
Sturgeon accused May of failing to compromise during her discussions with SNP officials ahead of the Brexit process.
Some 52 per cent of the UK electorate voted to leave European Union in the June 2016 vote, but only 38 per cent of voting Scots shared that perspective.