Scotland’s parliament is expected to formally reject legislation for taking Britain out of the European Union on Tuesday in an unprecedented move that would set the scene for a constitutional crisis.
The Scottish government has urged the parliament in Edinburgh to refuse “legislative consent” for the highly contested European Union (Withdrawal) Bill currently being debated by lawmakers in London.
Prime Minister Theresa May is under no obligation to amend her Brexit plan if Scotland objects, but experts warn that a confrontation between London and Edinburgh could push Scotland towards independence.
The dispute centres on who will have control of powers currently residing in Brussels, such as over farming and fisheries, once Britain leaves the EU.
Scotland’s government wants those powers to be under Scottish control, while the British government argues they should reside in London, at least initially.
Scottish officials have accused May of a “power grab”.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the separatist Scottish National Party, said Britain is now heading into “uncharted constitutional territory” with a majority in Scotland’s semi-autonomous legislature expected to oppose the bill.
The UK Government has accused Scottish opponents of “nit-picking” and has insisted it is trying to protect Britain’s economic integrity by building a common framework throughout the country when Brussels regulations are handed over after Brexit.
Sturgeon has rejected claims by May’s Scottish Conservative allies that she is trying to “weaponise Brexit” to further her aim of Scottish independence.
“It is likely to be not just the SNP government that votes against legislative consent,” Sturgeon told an audience in London on Monday.
“We are likely to be joined by Labour and the Liberals and the Greens in the Scottish Parliament so it will only be the Conservatives that vote to go ahead,” she said.
Scotland voted against independence by 55 percent in a referendum in 2014, but Sturgeon insists she has a mandate to hold a second vote since Scotland voted against Brexit by 62 percent in 2016.
“I’m not sure independence will ever be off the table until it is realised,” Sturgeon said on Monday.
She has pledged to outline her timetable for a second independence referendum in the autumn, once the terms of the Brexit agreement become clear.