The leader of the Scottish Greens has called for a second independence referendum to be held before the UK leaves the EU in 2019.
Patrick Harvie, whose party gives the SNP the pro-independence majority it needs in Holyrood, has joined the clamour for a snap plebiscite, telling his supporters that the UK that Scotland backed two years ago “no longer exists”.
Mr Harvie said it is “increasingly clear” that the conflict between Scotland’s 2014 decision to stay in the UK and the 2016 vote to remain in the EU “can only be resolved by putting it (independence) to the people again”.
Speaking at their conference in Perth, the Scottish Greens co-convener said they should not allow the “window of opportunity” in the Brexit negotiations to be closed before holding indyref2.
Theresa May has said the formal negotiations for leaving the EU will start by March 2017, with Brexit to be signed off within two years of that.
It is widely thought that Scotland’s best chance to seamlessly stay in the EU would be as an independent nation replacing the departing UK. That is fraught with difficulties, not least winning the approval of all existing EU member states.
Mr Harvie called on his party’s supporters to prepare for indyref2, while reaching out to 2014’s No voters to “join our cause”.
“We must prepare for the next independence campaign, not just to win a Yes vote, but to win a better Scotland. Greens will continue to strengthen the case on issues such as currency and industrial strategy,” he told Perth Concert Hall.
“Much as we voted and campaigned for a Yes vote, and others did, Scotland voted two years ago by 55% to remain part of the UK. Scotland voted this year by 62% to remain part of the European Union.”
He added: “There is a fundamental conflict still between those two referendum results and it may yet come to pass that the only way to resolve them is to put it to the people once again.”
Meanwhile, Greens delegates agreed that Westminster should hand Holyrood the power to call an independence referendum to protect Scotland’s European interests.
As it stands Downing Street has the legal authority to block Holyrood’s demands for indyref2, although Nicola Sturgeon has said it would be “inconceivable” for that to happen.
Ross Greer, the Greens MSP, said another referendum “must remain an option on the table as the prospect of a damaging hard Brexit, driven by a bigoted Tory agenda, grows ever stronger”.