LONDON – Scotland cannot support the Brexit bill now under consideration in the UK Parliament, the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday after meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
“While we didn’t reach agreement, I think we developed a better understanding of each others’ positions,” Sturgeon said following what she described as a “constructive and cordial” discussion with May at 10 Downing Street.
Debate began Tuesday in the House of Commons on the European Union Withdrawal Bill put forward by the Conservative government, but the process is expected to last until late next month, as individual members have proposed hundreds of amendments.
The administrations in Scotland and Wales, both of which enjoy a wide degree of autonomy, have expressed fears that the bill in its current form would bolster the power of the central government at their expense.
In Tuesday’s talks, according to May’s office, “the Prime Minister reiterated that as powers are repatriated from Brussels back to Britain there will be a significant increase in the decision-making powers for the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations.”
But those assurances did not appear to have convinced Sturgeon.
“I made very clear, as the Scottish Government has done consistently, that the Withdrawal Bill as it stands would not be acceptable and we would not be able to recommend approval of that,” the first minister said.
“That remains the position, but hopefully having had the opportunity to air the concerns that we have in more detail, we will be able to see progress in the weeks to come,” Sturgeon said.
“We oppose Brexit, but we understand withdrawal legislation is necessary, so we want to find agreement,” the Scottish leader said.
By large majorities, voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland opted for the “Remain” position in the June 2016 referendum on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, but that was not enough to overcome the weight of the “Leave” vote in England and Wales.
Asked whether she and May discussed the possibility of holding a second referendum on Scottish independence, Sturgeon said the independence question would remain on hold until the “details” of Brexit become clear.
The first referendum, held in September 2014, saw the pro-independence side lost by a margin of 55 percent to 44 percent.