Scotland’s Sturgeon urges party to focus on widening…

By Elisabeth O’Leary

ABERDEEN, Scotland, June 9 (Reuters) – Scottish National Party supporters should focus on how to widen support for the independence cause, rather than on the timing of when Scotland might split from the United Kingdom, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Saturday.

Sturgeon, who also heads Scotland’s devolved government, acted to cool expectations among her supporters of an immediate push for a new secession vote while the outcome of Brexit is unclear and, polls show, a majority of Scots are opposed to a fresh ballot.

But she asked delegates to set aside the “despair and despondency” of the debate over Britain leaving the European Union next year and focus on the future. Scotland voted to stay in the EU but, because a majority of Britons as a whole voted in favour of Brexit, it will nevertheless leave.

“The case for independence is strong. And it is getting stronger by the day,” Sturgeon said.

“As we wait for the fog of Brexit to clear, our opportunity – indeed, our responsibility – is this: Not just to focus on the ‘when’ of independence. But to use our energy and passion to persuade those who still ask ‘why?’ Right now, that is the more important task.”

Brexit has not been a catalyst for Scottish independence but it has not dampened separatist fervour either, polls indicate.

That means Sturgeon has to continue to balance her political act carefully, despite being the biggest single vote winner in Scottish politics and the biggest party in the Scottish parliament.

She is committed to updating the public on the timing of a possible new referendum on Scottish independence in the autumn, a spokesman for her party said. In the last one, in 2014, Scots opted to stay part of the UK by a 10 percentage point margin. (Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by Stephen Powell)


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