LONDON: Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has put the question of Scottish independence back into play, with Scotland having voted heavily for the UK to remain in the bloc.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the result put another independence referendum “on the table”, adding that it was “highly likely” within two years.
“As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will,” she said.
She said: “The vote here makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union.”
Scotland is by far the most pro-EU country in the UK and all the Scottish local authorities voted to stay in the EU during the referendum.
A revealing map of the electorate, from YouGov, showed that the top ten most Eurosceptic areas of Britain were all in England.
In many ways, the Brexit campaign was an English revolt mainly backed by Eurosceptics who live there. Much of Wales voted for Brexit, but Northern Ireland also voted to stay in the EU.
Throughout the 2014 campaign Ms Sturgeon made it clear that if Scotland was pulled out of the EU against its will, that would be grounds for a second referendum on seceding from the United Kingdom.
The UK as a whole voted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the EU. However, Scotland voted strongly for Britain to remain by 62 per cent to 38 per cent with a majority in all 32 of its local authority areas.
Wales and England, except London, voted for Britain to leave the EU, while Northern Ireland voted for it to stay in.
Ms Sturgeon said her devolved government would now draw up legislation to allow a second Scottish independence referendum.
Citing a clause in her Scottish National Party manifesto, she said there had now been a “significant and material change in the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence” in 2014, when 55 per cent of Scots voted to stay in the UK.
Irish unity question raised
The vote also raises questions about the future for Northern Ireland, which shares the UK’s only land border, with the Irish Republic.
Northern Ireland voted 55.8 per cent in favour of staying in the EU.
The UK and Ireland share a Common Travel Area of minimal or non-existent border controls dating back to Irish independence from Britain in the 1920s.
But Remain campaigners raised the prospect of a post-Brexit EU frontier being erected on the Irish border something that would not be relished on either side.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny tried to soothe concerns.
“The Irish government will do our utmost in upcoming discussions to maintain the Common Travel Area and minimise any possible disruptions to the flow of people, goods and services between these islands,” he said.
Sinn Fein, which wants a united Ireland, said it now wanted a referendum in Northern Ireland on joining the republic.
The province was being dragged out of the EU against its will, said its deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein politician urging London to allow Northern Irish people “to have their say on their own future”.
Some politicians in the pro-British community said they would welcome such a poll because they feel they would comprehensively win it, burying the issue for decades to come.
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