British Prime Minister Theresa May was prepared for a drawn-out battle with Scotland's nationalist First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the timing of a Scottish independence referendum, according to Britain's Scotland Minister David Mundell.
Mundell said Wednesday it would be impossible to have a legal and decisive referendum on Scottish independence immediately after Britain's exit from the European Union, or Brexit, as demanded by Sturgeon.
Sturgeon has said a referendum should be held in late 2018 or early 2019, when the terms of Brexit become clear.
Scotland held its first referendum in 2014, when over 55 percent of the people voted against independence.
However, talks of a new referendum gained momentum following a spat between Britain and Scotland over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Although nearly 52 percent of Britons opted to leave the bloc during the EU referendum in June last year, some 62 percent of the Scottish people voted against the decision.
"It would be impossible for people in the timescale suggested by Nicola Sturgeon to make a reasoned view and, therefore, have a legal, fair and decisive referendum," Mundell told Scotland's Herald newspaper.
“There is no option for Scotland to remain in the EU as the UK leaves or for Scotland to inherit the UK’s place,” Mundell said. “There’s an implicit suggestion in the timing of the referendum demand that somehow by having a referendum and by voting for independence you can stop Scotland leaving the EU; that’s absurd."
Earlier this week, Sturgeon announced she would ask permission for a second referendum to split from Britain as London has failed to compromise with Scotland on Brexit.
However, a new poll shows that a wide majority of Scottish people reject independence from the United Kingdom, despite the government revealing plans for a second independence referendum.
The British government was quick to react by calling Sturgeon’s plan for an independence referendum divisive.
London says Edinburgh’s move to seek independence at such a time would cause huge economic uncertainty.
May has promised to begin the Brexit process in March and complete it by 2019. The EU has warned that Britain would have less than 18 months to reach a deal to exit the bloc once Brexit negotiations begin.