Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon delays plan for new independence vote

Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon delays plan for new independence vote

Edinburgh (AFP) - Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday postponed preparations for a second independence referendum, after a British general election in which her secessionist party suffered major losses.

"We will not introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately," the Scottish National Party leader told Scotland's parliament in Edinburgh.

Sturgeon said she would "reset" the timetable for holding a referendum by spring 2019, when Britain is expected to leave the European Union.

She said she would look at the plan again in autumn 2018 when the outlines of the deal that Britain is to strike in the Brexit negotiations become clear.

The recent election "has re-opened the possibility, however narrow, of averting a hard Brexit and retaining membership of the single market", she said.

Scotland voted by 55 percent against independence in a 2014 referendum.

But Sturgeon had argued that the Brexit referendum last year -- in which Scotland voted to stay but Britain as a whole opted to leave -- justified her demand for a second independence vote.

Prime Minister Theresa May, whose permission would be required for another independence ballot, had told her that "now is not the time" for a referendum.

In the June 8 general election, Sturgeon's party came first in Scotland but lost 21 parliamentary seats, sparking calls for her to abandon plans for independence altogether.

Overall, May's Conservatives lost their British majority and the premier is under pressure to soften her demands in the Brexit negotiations with Brussels.

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