Nicola Sturgeon: Second Scottish independence referendum 'highly likely'
A second Scottish independence referendum is now “highly likely” in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said a re-run of the 2014 vote was now “on the table” and that work would begin to make sure arrangements could be put in place quickly.
Scotland voted by 62% to 38% to stay in the EU, although the weight of votes from England and Wales meant that the UK left.
The SNP’s manifesto cited Scotland being dragged out of the EU after voting Remain as a potential trigger for a second independence referendum.
In a statement today after the outcome of the EU vote emerged, Ms Sturgeon said preparations for a fresh vote were underway.
“I intend to take all possible steps and explore all options to give effect to how people in Scotland voted,” she said.
“In other words, to secure our continuing place in the EU and in the single market in particular.”
The SNP leader added: “It is a significant and material change in circumstances and it is therefore a statement of the obvious that the option of a second referendum must be on the table. And it is on the table...
“When the Article 50 process is triggered in three months’ time, the UK will be on a two-year path to the EU exit door.
"If Parliament judges that a second referendum is the best or only way to protect our place in Europe, it must have the option to hold one within that timescale.
“That means we must act now to protect that position. I can therefore confirm today that in order to protect that position we will begin to prepare the legislation that would be required to enable a new independence referendum to take place if and when Parliament so decides.”
Asked whether alternatives to another independence vote were being considered, she replied: “I think an independence referendum is now highly likely.
“But I also think it’s important that we take time to consider all steps and to have the discussions, not least to assess the response of the European Union to the vote that Scotland expressed yesterday.”
David Cameron himself raised the prospect of a Brexit vote leading to the split up of the UK during the referendum campaign.
He said on a televised BBC event: “Frankly, I do worry about a second Scottish referendum if we vote to leave and you don’t strengthen your country by leading to its break-up.”
The approval of the Westminster parliament is needed to give legal force to a Scottish referendum.