Should Scotland be an independent country?
Just five years ago, a majority of Scottish voters said no, but now that a pro-independence, anti-Brexit party has won a landslide in Scotland, the push to revisit the question appears to have gained strength.
The Scottish National Party won 48 seats — or 81 per cent of Scotland’s total seats in the U.K. House of Commons — in Thursday’s general election.
The Tories were reduced to six seats from 13 in Scotland, a sharp contrast from the overall result.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who campaigned on a “get Brexit done” slogan, led the Conservatives’ strongest showing since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Three-hundred-sixty-five Tory MPs were elected to the 650-seat House of Commons.
He called the result “a powerful new mandate” to move forward with the U.K.’s long-stalled divorce deal from the European Union.
SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon firmly disagrees.
The results — as well as that of the 2016 Brexit referendum, 2017 U.K. general election and European elections earlier this year — make it clear “beyond any doubt” that the overwhelming majority of Scots want to remain in the EU, she said.
“Westminster has ignored people in Scotland for more than three years,” she said in a speech Friday.
“Last night, the people of Scotland said ‘enough.'”
While not everyone who voted for her party supports independence, she said, the “point of unity” is that SNP supporters believe that “whether or not Scotland becomes an independent country must be a matter for the people who live here.”
She said that the Scottish Parliament would publish a case next week for a transfer of power that would enable it to stage a referendum “beyond legal challenge.”
In July, she wrote to Johnson, saying her party would continue with preparations for another independence vote.
In November, Johnson told Sky News he opposes giving Scotland permission for a second vote, saying that the one in 2014 was a “once-in-a-generation” event.
His office reiterated that message on Friday.
“The Prime Minister made clear how he remained opposed to a second independence referendum, standing with the majority of people in Scotland who do not want to return to division and uncertainty,” Johnson’s office said in a statement to Reuters.
“He added how the result of the 2014 referendum was decisive and should be respected.”
Critics of the independence movement say Scotland would be much better off staying within the United Kingdom.
In 2014, the “Better Together” campaign argued that pensions, jobs and health care would be safer.
The “No” side won with 55.3 per cent of the vote. More than 3.6 million people cast ballots.
That vote, however, took place two years before the Brexit referendum.
Speaking before the final results were available, Sturgeon said Johnson appears to have a mandate to take England out of the EU.
“But he emphatically does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the European Union, and if he’s going to claim a mandate for Brexit, then he cannot deny the mandate that the SNP has to offer people in Scotland, the choice of something different,” she told Scottish broadcaster STV.
Johnson struck a conciliatory tone Friday outside 10 Downing street.
He pledged to end acrimony over Brexit and urged the country to “let the healing begin.”
He also said he would work to repay voters’ trust.
–With files from the Associated Press and Reuters