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4 Sep, 2009 08:47

Scotland pushing for independence from UK

Scottish nationalists are pushing for independence from the UK next year, but are facing a steep uphill battle as the country’s own parliament is unlikely to support it.

The Scottish National Party says it wants to introduce a referendum to secede from the rest of the United Kingdom in 2010. While the nationalists are currently in the majority in the Scottish parliament, they are only a minority administration (in that the total number of seats the SNP possess is not more than other parties’ combined) therefore making it more difficult to pass any sort of referendum.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has called for support and said there was a “consensus” for change in Scotland.

“I want Scotland to have the same responsibilities and opportunities as similar nations,” Salmond said.

“Until we can use all the economic and financial levers available to every other government in the world, Scotland will always be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Those opposing the referendum said that the minority government had misplaced its priorities and should focus more on the economy and crime.

“This year’s flagship, the referendum bill, was pre-announced last year. It starts with even less support than the late, unlamented council tax bill of last year,” Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said.

The current conflict comes right on the heels of the widely condemned release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, further deepening the divide within Scotland and increasing tension with London.

Al-Megrahi is the Libyan national convicted in 2001 for his part in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988 which killed 270 people.

The Scottish government had asked parliament to show a vote of compassion that is “consistent with the principles of Scottish justice.” The Lockerbie bomber currently suffers from terminal cancer and, according to his doctors, has less than three months to live.

The decision drew widespread criticism from London and abroad. In a 73-50 vote the Scottish parliament backed an amendment condemning the release of al-Megrahi.

The Scottish National Party was formed in 1934 and, while it did not initially call for separation, it now campaigns for full independence from Westminster.

Currently, the Scottish Parliament carries autonomy in issues regarding justice, health and education. However, power over issues regarding defense and foreign affairs still reside with parliament in London.