Scotland Is Already Hinting at Another Referendum to Leave the U.K. After Brexit Vote

Photogrpah by Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

In the immediate aftermath of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, there were already rumblings that the surprise decision that triggered market chaos would prompt Scotland to again consider leaving the United Kingdom.

As the Brexit vote was tallied, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland “sees its future as part of the EU.” While the U.K. overall favored cutting ties with the bloc in Thursday’s vote, Scotland had cast an “unequivocal” vote to stay, she said.

The poll results certainly bear that out. Scottish voters favored staying in the EU by a 62.2% to 38.8% margin, whereas 54.6% of English voters and 55.5% of Welsh voters favored leaving. Voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain by 55.7% to 45.3%.

Sturgeon said earlier this week that another independence referendum “is definitely on the table” if Scotland votes to remain in the EU but the rest of the U.K. votes to leave, though she said she hoped that wouldn’t be the case since she supported Remain.

Sturgeon backed Scotland’s referendum in 2014 to leave the United Kingdom, but the measure failed by a 55.3% to 44.7% margin.


At a press conference Friday morning, Sturgeon confirmed that Scottish Parliament had the right to call a second referendum because the Brexit vote triggered a “material change” in the circumstances under which the 2014 vote was held—that Scotland would remain a member of the EU by being part of the U.K. Remaining in EU “was driver of staying in U.K.” for many Scottish voters two years ago, Sturgeon said. That Scotland could be taken out of the EU against against its will, she said, is “democratically unacceptable.”

She said legislation is being prepared to call another referendum.

Apart from Brexit, the economic conditions for Scottish independence have moved against Sturgeon and her supporters since its independence vote in 2014 with the collapse of global oil prices taking a devastating toll on the economy. The trade group Oil and Gas UK said last week that it expects the industry, which is centered around the town of Aberdeen in north-east Scotland, to lose 120,000 jobs by the end of the year.

This story has been updated to reflect Sturgeon’s comments during her press conference Friday.

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