The Scottish parliament has voted to back Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon in her bid to hold another referendum on the country's independence.
In a vote on Tuesday afternoon, the first minister's motion was supported by her party – the SNP – and the pro-independence Scottish Greens to win the vote by 69 MSPs in favour to 59 MSPs against.
Sturgeon now has parliament's permission to open negotiations with the UK government on when the next referendum should be. However, Theresa May has made clear she will not give her consent for one in the near future.
The vote came one day before the prime minister is due to trigger Article 50 and begin the official process of the UK leaving the European Union.
The Scottish parliament does not hold the power to hold another referendum on independence without the agreement of the UK government on things such as the timing, the franchise, and the question being asked.
Speaking at the beginning of the debate on Tuesday – which was postponed last week after the terror attack in Westminster – Sturgeon said she will seek discussions with the prime minister on the matter later this week.
The first minister added that if May fails to negotiate with her, she will return to the Scottish parliament after the Easter break to set out her next steps to "progress the will of parliament".
“Today’s vote must now be respected," said Sturgeon following the result. "The mandate for a referendum is beyond question, and it would be democratically indefensible – and utterly unsustainable – to attempt to stand in the way of it.
“We will now act on the mandate given to us by parliament by making a formal approach to the UK Government within the next few days, after Article 50 has been triggered.
The first minister added: “This is, first and foremost, about giving the people of Scotland a choice on this country’s future."
Speaking ahead of a meeting with Sturgeon on Monday, May reiterated her opinion that "now is not the time" for an independence referendum and intimated to Sturgeon during the meeting that there would be no negotiations.
The UK government's Scotland secretary, Conservative MP David Mundell, has also made clear that Number 10 will not enter into negotiations with the Scottish government despite the Scottish parliament's vote.
After the result, a spokesperson for the UK government said: “The prime minister has been clear that now is not the time for an 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."
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "The SNP's decision to press ahead with an unwanted second referendum is deeply regrettable, and it will only add to the uncertainty facing Scotland at this time.
"We have made it clear: now is not the time to go back to another divisive referendum. Not when there is no public support for one. Not when the SNP said the last referendum would be once in a generation. Not when we have no clear picture as to what either Brexit or independence will look like.
"We will continue to oppose a second referendum every step of the way."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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