UPDATE: 6:45 a.m. EDT — Speaking at a press conference Friday morning, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she and her Scottish National Party want to secure Scotland’s place in the European Union, raising the prospect of a second independence referendum for the country to break away from the United Kingdom. Sturgeon said she would "take all possible steps" to stay within EU.
While the “leave” camp celebrates, having surprised almost everyone except itself with its historic win in the EU referendum, there is at least one possible repercussion that will be no cause for cheer, if it should come to pass: another vote for an independent Scotland.
Even before all the results from the Brexit vote were announced Friday, it was pretty clear which way Scotland was leaning, with its full weight. All 32 council areas in Scotland for the “remain” camp, even as the total vote share in favor of keeping U.K. within the EU was 63 percent, even though the turnout in Scotland was lower than elsewhere in the country.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other leaders from the Scottish National Party (SNP) — which controls Holyrood, Scotland’s parliament — have said on more than one occasion that if the U.K. voted to leave the 28-member economic bloc of the EU, it would lead to a second independence referendum in Scotland. The first referendum, held in September 2014, voted in favor of being a part of the U.K.
That might change now, however. In May, ahead of the elections to Holyrood, which SNP won convincingly, the party said in its manifesto: “We believe it is best for Scotland to stay part of the EU (European Union). We think that people in Scotland and across the U.K. will vote to stay part of the EU. But we will campaign positively for an ‘in’ vote, to remain in the EU.”
While its prediction of the EU referendum has been proved wrong, that first bit about what’s best for Scotland becomes even more important now. Especially since the manifesto also said this: “In the next parliament, we will try to get the Scottish people to agree that being an independent country is the best option for our country. We will listen to the people who voted No in 2014 and we hope to change their minds.”
SNP, which supports a Scotland independent of the United Kingdom and for the U.K. to remain within EU, had to contend with only 45 percent of Scots voting in favor of independence in the 2014 referendum. And while that number may go up after the EU referendum, there is no knowing which way the remaining majority of 55 percent would vote, were there to be another election to decide on Scotland’s split from the U.K.
In a statement issued early Friday, before the final overall results were announced, Sturgeon said: “Scotland has delivered a strong, unequivocal vote to remain in the EU, and I welcome that endorsement of our European status. And while the overall result remains to be declared, the vote here makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union.”
The “leave” campaign, led by former London Mayor Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence Party, among others, is busy opening the champagne at the U.K. breaking away from the EU. How will they react if Scotland decides to break away from the U.K. to go back into the EU’s fold?