Scottish voters may get to reconsider whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom, following an announcement by the country’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on 13 October 2016.
Sturgeon’s plan to publish an independence referendum bill is a direct response to the results of the EU referendum (popularly known as “Brexit,” or British Exit) on 23 June 2016, which saw 51.8 percent of voters say they wanted the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
The vote varied wildly by country, region, and even town. English and Welsh voters largely supported the proposition, but Brexit was a flop in Scotland, where it was rejected by 62 percent of the electorate.
Speaking at the opening of the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) annual conference, Sturgeon said that the “right wing” of the ruling Tory Party had hijacked the results of the Brexit vote in order to excuse its own xenophobic policies:
They are using the result as cover for a hard Brexit for which they have no mandate – but which they are determined to impose, regardless of the ruinous consequences. Worse still, they intend to do all of this with no parliamentary authority. Virtually no scrutiny whatsoever. And to do it with complete disregard for Scotland’s democratic voice. That is simply not acceptable.
The Brexit voting results are non-binding. For the U.K. to leave the E.U., it would have to invoke Article 50 of the union’s treaty, which mandates that any member nation must notify the European Council of its intention to do so, thus initiating negotiations regarding its withdrawal. Prime Minister Theresa May said in a 2 October 2016 interview that she planned to invoke Article 50 in March 2017.
Sturgeon responded in her speech by saying that the 56 SNP members currently in the House of Commons would vote against any Brexit bill brought to the floor there, and that her party would seek to form a coalition with other parties to reject the Tory proposal.
The SNP said in a statement that any legislation regarding independence would be “ready for introduction to the Scottish Parliament” at any point in case Article 50 is invoked.
Scotland last considered independence from the U.K. in a referendum vote on 18 September 2014, which saw 55.3 percent of respondents vote against the idea.
The fallout from Brexit has already touched nearly every aspect of British life. The pound sterling has not recovered from a precipitous long-term drop, hate crimes appear to be on the rise since the referendum, and reports indicate that the vote may end up costing the country at least 20 billion.