The Scottish parliament voted on Tuesday to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's bid to hold a new independence referendum in late 2018 or 2019, once the terms of the UK's exit from the European Union have become clearer.
The Edinburgh assembly's vote, which was widely expected, gives Sturgeon a mandate to seek permission from the British parliament in London to press forward with preparations for a referendum.
Scotland voted against independence in a 2014 referendum, but Sturgeon argues circumstances have changed since then because the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union while Scotland voted strongly to remain in the bloc.
The motion, put forward by Sturgeon, passed by 69 votes in favour and 59 votes against in the Scottish parliament.
Earlier, Sturgeon urged the parliament to approve her plan for a second independence referendum, just three years after Scottish voters rejected independence.
Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), has complained that her efforts to seek a compromise on Britain's exit from the European Union were met with intransigence from Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government.
"Scotland, like the rest of the UK, stands at a crossroads," she told the parliament.
When May triggers formal talks with the EU on Wednesday, as she has promised, "change for our country at that point becomes inevitable," Sturgeon said.
"There will be an impact on trade, on investment and on living standards, and an impact on the very nature of the society we live in," she said.
Sturgeon told lawmakers that such change "should not be imposed upon us."
She insists that a second referendum is needed because Brexit - particularly May's plan to withdraw from the EU single market - will alter Scotland's relationships with Britain and Europe against its will.
"The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit - possibly a very hard Brexit - or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands," Sturgeon told the parliament.
After meeting May on Monday, Sturgeon said she was left frustrated by May's refusal to make concessions on extra devolved powers to Scotland once Britain leaves the European Union.
But she said May had made it clear that she plans to finalise the terms of Brexit and Britain's future trade relations with the EU in time for the British parliament in London to ratify the deal before the end of the two-year negotiating process.
The SNP runs a minority government with 63 of the 129 seats in parliament. But the referendum has the backing of the Scottish Green Party, which holds six seats.
The Scottish Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats - with a combined 59 seats - have all vowed to vote against holding a second referendum.
May has argued that Scotland had already made its decision in the first referendum in 2014, when 55% voted against independence.
After Sturgeon announced her plan, May's office said a second referendum "would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time."
If, as expected, the Scottish parliament empowers Sturgeon to begin formal talks with London, May is likely to delay the process and attempt to persuade the SNP to hold a referendum after Britain completes the Brexit process in March 2019.
More than 60% of voters in Scotland opted to stay in the EU in the Brexit referendum, while 52% voted for Brexit across Britain and Northern Ireland.Last updated: March 28 2017 07:15 PM