Nicola Sturgeon has written to Theresa May demanding the power to hold another independence referendum, insisting there's "no rational reason" for the UK government to deny a vote on Scotland's future.
The first minister and the prime minister have been locked in a row for two weeks since Sturgeon announced her intention to hold a fresh independence vote between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019.
The UK government needs to transfer the power to hold a vote to the Scottish government for it to be legal, but May has said "now is not the time" for another referendum and has ruled it out before the UK leaves the EU.
Now, following the Scottish parliament voting to back Sturgeon's proposal on Tuesday, the first minister has formally requested the power to hold a referendum in a letter delivered to Downing Street on Friday afternoon.
The UK government has made clear that no such request will be granted.
The first minister wrote: "The decision of the Scottish Parliament has been made in line with the tradition of popular sovereignty in Scotland – that the people of Scotland should be able to determine the form of government most suited to their needs – and with the clear commitment in the manifesto on which my government was re-elected last May.
"I am therefore writing to begin early discussions between our governments to agree an order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 that would enable a referendum to be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament."
A so-called "section 30 order" would temporarily transfer the power to hold a vote to the Scottish parliament, and such an agreement was reached between David Cameron and Alex Salmond ahead of 2014's referendum.
The UK government has made clear it will not enter into discussions over a section 30 order and, in her letter, Sturgeon anticipated the rejection of her request but insisted May will not be able to stop another referendum.
Sturgeon wrote: "In anticipation of your refusal to enter into discussions at this stage, it is important for me to be clear about my position. It is my firm view that the mandate of the Scottish parliament must be respected and progressed. The question is not if, but how.
"I hope that will be by constructive discussion between our governments. However, if that is not yet possible, I will set out to the Scottish Parliament the steps I intend to take to ensure that progress is made towards a referendum."
The Scottish parliament breaks up for Easter as of Friday afternoon, but Sturgeon said at First Minister's Questions on Thursday that she would set out the next steps for a referendum in two weeks' time when parliament returns.
Elsewhere in the letter, the first minister insists that there's "no rational reason" for May to reject the proposal as she believes the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will be known by the dates she's set out.
Sturgeon also said the agreement reached between the UK and Scottish governments ahead of the 2014 referendum was a "relatively straightforward process" and that a repeat agreement would be simple.
The first minister warned the prime minister: "In light of the above, there appears to be no rational reason for you to stand in the way of the will of the Scottish parliament and I hope you will not do so."
On Tuesday, after the Scottish parliament voted in favour of another referendum, the UK government's Scotland secretary, David Mundell, said an independence vote before Brexit would be "unfair, so can't be agreed".
He added: "Nor will there be any negotiations in response to such a request."
A spokesperson for the UK government said: “The prime minister has been clear that now is not the time for a second independence referendum, and we will not be entering into negotiations on the Scottish government’s proposal. At this point, all our focus should be on our negotiations with the European Union, making sure we get the right deal for the whole of the UK.
"It would be unfair to the people of Scotland to ask them to make a crucial decision without the necessary information about our future relationship with Europe, or what an independent Scotland would look like.
“We have been joined together as one country for more than 300 years. We’ve worked together, we’ve prospered together, we’ve fought wars together, and we have a bright future. At this crucial time we should be working together, not pulling apart.”
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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