A second Scottish independence referendum is “highly likely” and should take place before Britain leaves the European Union, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday.
Scotland voted to stay in the EU by 62 to 38 percent in a referendum on Thursday, putting it at odds with the United Kingdom as a whole, which voted 52-48 in favour of leaving.
“It is a statement of the obvious that the option of a second independence referendum must be on the table and is on the table,” Sturgeon told a news conference. “As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against her will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable,” she added. “I think an independence referendum is now highly likely.”
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Scots rejected independence from the rest of the United Kingdom by 55 to 45 percent in a 2014 referendum, but since then Sturgeon’s pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has surged, winning several elections.
EU membership was one of the key issues in 2014, with those campaigning for Scotland to stick with the United Kingdom arguing that an independent Scotland would not be able to remain a member of the bloc.
Sturgeon said many Scots who had voted against independence for that reason were now re-assessing their decision. “I want to make it absolutely clear today that I intend to take all possible steps and explore all options to give effect to how people in Scotland voted (on Thursday), in other words to secure our continuing place in the EU and in the single market,” she said.
INDEPENDENCE BEFORE BREXIT?
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the EU referendum and campaigned for a “Remain” vote, announced after the result that he would resign by the autumn.He said he would leave it to his successor to decide when to trigger article 50, the mechanism by which an EU member can leave the bloc. There would then be a two-year window for Britain to negotiate the terms of its exit and execute it.
“If (Scotland’s) parliament judges that a second (independence) referendum is the only way to protect our place in Europe it must have the option to hold one within that timescale,” Sturgeon said.
She said it was “inconceivable” that Britain’s central government in London would stand in the way of a second referendum if it was the will of Scotland’s devolved parliament, which the SNP dominates.Splitting Scotland from the UK would end three centuries of shared history, upending another successful economic relationship shortly after the now-impending divorce between Britain and the EU.
Most voters in Northern Ireland also voted to remain and Irish nationalist leaders there called for a poll on leaving the United Kingdom and uniting with Ireland. Calling a new Scottish vote would not be quick or simple and the SNP, tempered by caution since Sturgeon took over as leader, would want to first ensure a new vote could be won.
Where the last Scottish independence campaign fell down is widely considered to be the economic argument. An independent Scotland would, it was projected at the time, stick with its old currency, Britain’s pound, with national finances underpinned by an oil price then over $100 but now roughly half that level.
Sturgeon would have to build a robust economic independence strategy to convince those emotionally persuaded to leave in 2014 but not economically so.She would also have to make sure that the maelstrom around Britain’s EU exit does not sweep away some of the support the SNP currently enjoys. In a nationwide election in 2015, the SNP won 56 out of the 59 seats in parliament in London that represent Scotland.