Scotland Leader Launches Campaign for New Independence Vote

LONDON (AP) -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched her campaign for a second independence referendum on Tuesday, arguing that Scotland would be economically better off outside the United Kingdom.

Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party as well as the devolved government in Scotland, said "it is time to set out a different and better vision" for Scotland as she released the first in a series of papers laying out the case for independence.

Scotland rejected independence in a 2014 referendum, with 55% of voters saying they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Sturgeon has said she wants a new vote on independence before the end of 2023. She said Tuesday the Scottish parliament has an "indisputable democratic mandate" for the vote, after her Scottish National Party won last year's elections on the back of a pledge to hold a new referendum.

Sturgeon's party leads a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament, together with the Scottish Green Party. But the U.K.-wide government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson opposes a new referendum, saying the issue was settled in the 2014 vote.

But Sturgeon argues that the landscape has changed since then, most importantly because of Britain's departure from the European Union, a move opposed by a majority of people in Scotland.

"Had we known in 2014 everything we know now about the path the U.K. would have taken, then I've got no doubt Scotland would have voted yes back then," Sturgeon said in an interview with the BBC.

Sturgeon said the first set of documents in the Scottish government's "Building a New Scotland" papers sets out "challenges a newly independent Scotland would face" as well as outline how independence can help Scotland become a wealthier and fairer place.

Like Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland has its own parliament and devolved government and makes its own policies on public health, education and other matters. But the U.K.-wide government in London controls matters such as defense and fiscal policy.

Opposition parties have criticized Sturgeon for focusing on independence and neglecting other issues such as recovering from the coronavirus pandemic and the cost of living crisis. They say another referendum will be divisive and counterproductive to what Scotland needs.

"The distraction and disruption of another bitter referendum debate is the last thing Scotland needs right now," said Donald Cameron, a Scottish Conservative.