Scottish lawmakers voted 69-59 in favor of an independence referendum Tuesday, setting Edinburgh on a collision course with the UK government.
The vote by members of the Scottish Parliament gives the green light to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to ask the UK Parliament for a referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated she will reject the Sturgeon’s timetable. Britain is expected to leave the European Union in 2019, and May has said that “now is not the time” for a vote that could break up the United Kingdom.
But Sturgeon has said there is an “unquestionable democratic mandate” for a referendum.
In a failed 2014 referendum on independence, Scotland voted 55% to 45% to remain in the UK. But the Scottish National Party, led by Sturgeon, said the landscape has changed since Britain decided to leave the EU.
Sturgeon said the Brexit vote is forcing Scotland out of the EU against its will as 62% of Scots voted in June to remain in the bloc.
Opening the referendum debate in the Edinburgh Parliament last week, Sturgeon said it would be “wrong, unfair and utterly unsustainable” for the UK government to block her request.
There has been fierce opposition to a fresh referendum from the Scottish Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
But the Scottish National Party, the largest party in the Parliament, will be backed by the Green Party, enabling Sturgeon to put May under increased pressure.
The two leaders met Monday in Glasgow ahead of the UK government’s plans to trigger Article 50 on Wednesday, the formal announcement of a separation from the EU.
In comments reported by the UK Press Association, Sturgeon said May had been clear that the terms of the UK’s divorce from the EU and the details of a new free trade deal would be known within two years.
“I think it makes it very difficult for the Prime Minister to maintain a rational opposition to a referendum in the time scale I have set out,” Sturgeon said.