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UK: One year on, Scotland eyes second referendum

19th Sep 2015
UK: One year on, Scotland eyes second referendum

LONDON (AA) : A year may have passed since Scots voted ‘no’ to independence from the United Kingdom, but the last 12 months have been the most successful in Scottish nationalist history.

Fifty-five percent of Scots voted in a referendum – described by then-leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Alex Salmond as a “once in a generation” event – to remain part of the centuries-old United Kingdom on 18 September 2014.

However, defeat in the vote appears to have been no setback for the SNP or its long-cherished hopes of independence for Scotland.

Salmond was succeeded after the vote by his deputy Nicola Sturgeon, who led the party to the best electoral result in its history: it won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats in the British parliament, establishing the SNP as the third-largest party in the chamber.

Its membership quadrupled over the last 12 months, soaring from 25,000 to 112,000 and making it one of Britain’s largest parties.

The success has helped fuel speculation that the promise not to repeat the referendum in a generation may be revisited.

Salmond himself has said his view on a second referendum was being overtaken by events.

He accused David Cameron and the U.K. government of failing to deliver his promises of more power to Scotland in the event of a ‘no’ vote – a claim rejected by the U.K. prime minister.

“More Scots voted [a year ago] to keep our kingdom united than have ever voted for any party in any election in Scottish history,” David Cameron said on Friday.

“They voted for a powerhouse parliament and devolution is now woven into the fabric of our constitution.

“We all signed the outcome of the Edinburgh Agreement, which was to respect the outcome of the referendum. And I think that is what everyone should now do.”

But in a column for The Courier, a local newspaper in his district, Salmond suggested other factors could accelerate plans for a second independence vote.

He wrote the U.K. government’s policy of cutting welfare payments and the possibility of a British withdrawal from the European Union “are bringing another referendum much closer and much faster”.

On Friday, in a speech to mark the referendum’s anniversary, his successor Nicola Sturgeon did not precisely outline what measures her party would take to bolster the 45% minority who voted for independence.

She admitted a “committed, enthusiastic and impatient 45% is still just 45%,” adding: “That means we must persuade the people we failed to persuade last year.

“That means understanding why they voted ‘no’. And it means addressing those concerns, patiently, carefully and comprehensively. That is our challenge.”

But she warned Cameron was “living on borrowed time”.

“If you continue to ignore Scotland’s voice, if you continue to disrespect the choice that people across this country made in May, more and more people will conclude that Westminster simply can’t deliver for Scotland,” she said.

Opinion polls paint a divided picture for nationalists and unionists. A YouGov poll this month put pro-independence supporters at 47%, with opponents at 53%, while a survey for the rival pollster TNS-BMRB found precisely the opposition position, with 53% favoring Scottish separation.

But all this month’s surveys were conducted before the election of leftist Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party.

Strathclyde University’s professor of politics, John Curtice, told The Guardian that around 35% of Labour’s Scottish voters had voted for independence and went on to support the SNP in May’s general election.

“If Corbyn was able to persuade them Labour is to the left, he might persuade them back but he would have to persuade them they do not need independence,” he said.

Author: Michael Sercan Daventry

[Photo: Scotland’s First Minister and Leader of Scottish National Party, Nicola Stugeron. Photographer: Yunus Kaymaz/Anadolu Agency]

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