Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has paved the way for a second referendum on Scottish independence, former First Minister Alex Salmond has said.
In September 2014, Salmond led a failed campaign that would have seen Scotland break away from the rest of the United Kingdom and become its own sovereign nation. A slim majority of referendum voters ultimately disagreed with Salmond and his vision for Scotland’s future – leading to Salmond’s inevitable resignation.
Both Salmond and his successor, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, had consequently promised that the failed bid would lay the issue to rest for an entire generation.
Yet in the wake of Thursday’s Brexit vote, it appears a second Scottish independence referendum is now very much in the cards.
Speaking with BBC Radio Scotland on Friday morning, Salmond told listeners that Scottish voters had wholeheartedly voted in favor of remaining with Brussels and the rest of the European Union. Unlike the rest of Britain, all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities had voted against a Brexit.
By pulling the country out of the EU against its will, Salmond argued that he was “quite certain” Scottish lawmakers would now launch a fresh bid for independence from Britain.
“This changes the whole context of Scottish independence,” Salmond said.
Following a huge success in local elections earlier this year, Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon had already included a pledge in the Scottish National Party’s latest manifesto that would see her ruling party pursue a second referendum if there was “a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU” against its will.
“I’m quite certain that Nicola will start to implement that manifesto,” Salmond said Friday morning.
Alex Salmond isn’t the only one backing calls for a second Scottish independence referendum.
Early Friday morning, the Scottish Green Party announced that it planned to launch a petition urging fellow Scottish lawmakers to explore staging a fresh vote on independence.
Bearing in mind that Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party is currently just two seats short of an overall majority in Scottish parliament, support for independence from the Scottish Green’s six politicians could be enough to set the cogs into motion.
According to Salmond, that will need to be done fairly quickly.
Announcing his resignation on Friday morning, Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters that his political party would soon need to appoint a successor, who could then begin the process of leaving the EU.
Analysts reckon the process of untangling Britain from Brussels will take at least two years.
“That sets the clock ticking,” Salmond said Friday. “So some time over the next two to two-and-a-half years, there would have to be a Scottish referendum to see if the people of Scotland want to assert their national independence, as part of a wider Europe.”
Former anti-independence campaigners are already mulling over swapping sides and supporting a second referendum.
Acclaimed Harry Potter author JK Rowling received a flurry of criticism in 2014 for opposing Scotland’s bid for independence – even going so far as to donate £1 million of her own money to the anti-independence campaign.
But taking to social media Friday morning, Rowling suggested that Scottish independence was now all but inevitable thanks to Britain’s impending EU exit.
“Scotland will seek independence now. Cameron’s legacy will be breaking up two unions. Neither needed to happen,” she wrote on Twitter. “Many no voters will think again now.”
Bearing in mind that only 55 percent of voters opposed Scottish independence in 2014, it certainly wouldn’t take a seismic shift in opinion in order to win full sovereignty in a second vote.
[Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]