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Scotland faces independence dilemma as Brexit looms

 

Edinburgh / AFP

Scotland’s ruling nationalists gather for their annual conference on Thursday with the issue of independence back on the table following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), has vowed to explore “all options” to protect Scotland’s place in the EU after Scots bucked the national trend by voting to remain in the bloc.
For many in the party, this means a second vote on independence from the rest of the United Kingdom — even though a first referendum two years ago saw voters reject independence by 55 percent.
On Friday, conference delegates in Glasgow will debate a motion warning that “if no viable solution to safeguard our membership as part of the UK exists, Scotland should prepare for a second independence referendum.”
Toni Giugliano, an SNP member from Edinburgh, said it was “an ultimatum” to British Prime Minister Theresa May to find a way to keep Scotland in the EU, or see it seek continued membership as an independent country.
However, May was clear during her own Conservative party conference last week that Brexit was not negotiable.
“We voted in the referendum as one United Kingdom, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom,” the premier said.
“There is no opt-out from Brexit. And I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious union between the four nations of our United Kingdom.”

‘Far-fetched ideas’
The SNP has governed the semi-autonomous Scottish Parliament for almost a decade, and many predicted the “No” vote to independence in 2014 would spell the end of the party.
But it won twice as many votes as its main opponents in both the 2015 UK general election and the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.
It also signed up hordes of new members to campaign for Scotland — home to over five million people — to vote on June 23 to remain in the EU.
After the vote for Brexit, in which 62 percent of Scottish voters chose to stay in the EU, Sturgeon said a second referendum was “highly likely.”
She headed straight to Brussels for talks with European leaders, where she was greeted with sympathy, but also a warning that Brussels would not get involved in the internal constitution wrangles of the United Kingdom.

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