World Scope: Second Scottish independence referendum smart or poorly-fated?

Dunnotar castle situated in the Aberdeenshire area of Scotland. / Photo courtesy Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons
Dunnotar castle situated in the Aberdeenshire area of Scotland. / Photo courtesy Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons

By Jeewan Ambat, political columnist

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently made the call to seek a second referendum for the independence of Scotland sometime between fall 2018 and spring 2019. The call comes as the United Kingdom’s new prime minister, Theresa May, is in the midst of planning the country’s leave from the European Union. She was set to trigger Article 50 of the E.U. treaty and set in place the approximately two-year-long exit of Britain from the E.U.

The result of the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union is still lingering throughout the country and especially in the United Kingdom Parliament. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U. In combination with a pound that is losing its value and grim economic forecasts for the United Kingdom, many Scots have wondered what Scotland can do to ensure that its political—and most importantly, economic—prospects are not dashed. Perhaps they’ve found their answer and voice in their First Minister’s call for a referendum on Scottish independence.

The timing of Sturgeon’s announcement was nothing short of great political strategy. While the attention in the United Kingdom’s political sphere was centered around May and Parliament strategizing the passage of legislation to exit the E.U., Sturgeon’s announcement not only shifted attention away from May but also introduced further instability and worry regarding May’s actions. It is also interesting that May has denounced Sturgeon’s claims by stating that politics is not a game, hinting a hesitance in the U.K. wanting Scotland to gain independence. For what exact reason this might be, I am not certain. However, it is quite curious that May, who champions the exit of the United Kingdom from the E.U., would be rather uneasy about Scotland wanting to “exit” from the United Kingdom.

The reaction to Sturgeon’s announcement has been varied, with Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party stating there isn’t a widespread support for a second referendum. However, the most important reaction must be that of the Scottish people themselves, and here Corbyn may have some truth to his claim. Scotland did decide in the first referendum for independence not to leave. Polling for the second referendum appears uncertain for a yes to leave, with the vote being split roughly in half between those favoring independence and those not. It is these numbers that may prove the biggest hurdle of all for Sturgeon to climb over if she is to seriously draw a second referendum.

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