The countdown to a second Scottish independence referendum appears to have begun after British Prime Minister Theresa May laid out the course toward a “hard” Brexit, but Scots are as divided as ever.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said another vote was “more likely” than ever after May on Tuesday outlined her plan to pull the UK out of the EU’s single market, despite Scotland’s objections.
“Time is fast running out for the UK government to convince us that they care one jot about Scotland’s interests,” Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament on Thursday.
“If they don’t, Scotland does face a choice: Do we go down the damaging path set out by Theresa May ... or do we want to take control over the future of our country?”
Following a meeting with Brexit Minister David Davis on Thursday, Sturgeon’s representative Mike Russell said: “The clock is ticking.”
Scotland voted in 2014 by a margin of 55 to 45 percent to stay in the UK.
Sturgeon says that last year’s vote for Brexit has left Scotland in “uncharted waters,” as a majority of Scots opted to stay in the EU.
She has put forward proposals for Scotland to be allowed to remain in the single market — even as the rest of Britain leaves — and has drafted an independence referendum bill just in case.
Her independence ally Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens whose votes she needs to get a second referendum through parliament, has predicted it will be held some time next year.
The dilemma for Sturgeon is that many Scots say the EU referendum has not changed their minds on independence.
The latest poll of 1,002 respondents carried out by BMG Research for the Herald newspaper last month found 55 percent against and 45 percent in favor — the same split as in the 2014 vote.
Mother and daughter Irene and Cara Henney from Paisley on the edge of Glasgow are typical of the generational divide seen in both the independence and EU referendums.
Irene, 55, who works in sales, said no to independence, but yes to Brexit.
“Sturgeon has lost sight of what matters to the Scottish people, like health and education... By calling for a second referendum she’s probably alienating a lot of people,” Irene said.
Cara, 18, a student, voted yes to independence in her first ever national vote after the Scottish government lowered the voting age to 16.
Cara missed the EU referendum, which was reserved for over-18s, but said she would have voted to stay.
“While I don’t agree with some of Sturgeon’s priorities, now that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will she is giving us an opportunity to fight back,” Cara said.
Asked about the differences with her mother, she said: “It does cause some tension in the family.”
Stuart Salter, 34, a town planner from Edinburgh, voted no to independence and wants to remain in the EU.
“The Brexit vote hasn’t changed my mind about independence,” Salter said. “Driving Scotland towards another independence referendum will only add to the present uncertainty.”
Campbell Fraser, 50, a drama workshop director from Clarkston, south of Glasgow, said he wanted Scotland to be an independent EU member state.
“We have to make sure we win, because I don’t think we’ll get another chance in my lifetime,” he said.
However, Michael Keating, director of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Centre on Constitutional Change, told reporters: “There is no sign whatsoever that the UK government is going to take [Sturgeon’s] proposals seriously.”
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