By Harry Busz
Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP and current first minister for Scotland, has announced this week that a second Scottish independence referendum will take place, subject to agreements from Westminster and Holyrood.
Sturgeon’s SNP party, which maintained control of the Scottish Parliament in last year’s elections, was elected with the mandate to hold another referendum in the event of the UK leaving the European Union against Scotland’s will.
It is likely that the SNP controlled parliament will agree to grant a section 30 order, an act formally needed for any independence vote to be legally binding, when they vote on the issue next Tuesday.
The call for a Second referendum comes just three years after the first independence vote, in which the unionist ‘No’ side won by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.
Since then the SNP believes that there has been ‘sustained evidence’ that the majority of Scottish citizens now prefer the outcome of independence, due to the upcoming withdrawal of the country from the EU.
Leaving the EU would be against the will of the Scottish people who voted by 62 per cent to remain part of the European Union last June, with deputy SNP leader Angus Robinson claiming he didn’t want to ‘see the prime minister drive us off a Brexit cliff’ on BBC Newsnight earlier this week.
Contrary to Sturgeons beliefs, recent polling data from both What Scotland Thinks and YouGov suggest that a re-run of the independence debate would lead to a similar result as in 2014, with a ‘No’ vote still slightly ahead.
In order to be successful Sturgeon will have to convince pro-EU, anti-independence voters that the so called ‘hard Brexit’ approach from Westminster is too extreme, and that Scotland is able to be more prosperous independent of the UK but inside the EU.
In order to proceed with the referendum vote, the Scottish Parliament will have to obtain permission from Westminster at a time when Theresa May is wary of the prospect of the union breaking up.
May stated she now believes Scotland is ‘on a course for more uncertainty and division’ and may undermine her Brexit negotiations.
Yet it is unlikely that the request will be blocked, an act that would seem undemocratic as the elected Scottish Parliament has the mandate to proceed with the vote.
Nevertheless, Theresa May is likely to be unwilling to hold the referendum until Brexit negotiations are complete, whereas Sturgeon believes that the vote should take place between late 2018 and early 2019 in order to allow Scotland to secure its future before it’s ‘too late’, but after ‘the terms of Brexit are known’.
The second referendum is likely to focus on similar themes to the first such as Scotland’s economic competency, the extent to which oil revenue will be relied on and, as the EU has recently restated, the need for Scotland to join the single currency when it reapplies for EU membership.
Yet the perceived neglect of Scotland in Brexit negotiations, coupled with Mrs May revealing that the UK will leave the single market, gives the vote a substantially different setting, which independence supporters believe will finally give Scotland sovereignty.