Second Scots poll highly likely, warns Nicola Sturgeon
Fresh vote on independence could come in next two years
Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that a second vote on Scottish independence is "highly likely" after Britons delivered a shock Brexit victory in the European referendum, while Scots voted overwhelmingly to remain.
The Scottish First Minister and SNP leader confirmed her administration would now begin to draw up the legislation that could see another independence referendum take place within the next two years.
Across the UK, 52% of voters backed leaving the EU, a verdict that resulted in David Cameron announcing he would step down as Prime Minister before October's Conservative conference.
The result was welcomed by US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who hailed it as an "amazing vote".
The controversial tycoon, visiting one of his golf resorts in Scotland, said of the Leave campaign's victory: ''Basically, they took back their country. That's a great thing."
In Scotland, 62% of those who voted backed the UK staying in Europe, with all 32 council areas returning a majority for Remain.
Ms Sturgeon said: "As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable."
The SNP manifesto for May's Holyrood elections said the Scottish Parliament "should have the right to hold another referendum if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014", such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its wishes.
"It is, therefore, a statement of the obvious that a second referendum must be on the table, and it is on the table," Ms Sturgeon declared yesterday. When Westminster triggers the process to withdraw from Europe later this year, she added that "the UK will be on a two-year path to the EU exit door".
The SNP leader explained: "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 will be required to enable a new independence referendum to take place if and when Parliament so decides."
Ms Sturgeon, who long campaigned for a Remain vote, added: "This is not a situation that I wanted Scotland or the UK to be in today."
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, another prominent figure in the pro-EU camp, said staging a second independence referendum was not "in the best interests of the people of Scotland".
Recalling the result of the 2014 ballot on independence, Ms Davidson added: "The 1.6 million votes that were cast in this referendum in favour of remain do not wipe away the two million votes that we cast less than two years ago.
"We do not address the challenges of leaving the European Union by leaving our own union of nations, our biggest market and our closest friends."
Former Labour first minister Henry McLeish said the debate over Scotland's future had "massively changed overnight".
"The issue is we have now left the European Union and Scots now have to make a decision on where they think their true interests lie," he added.
Harry Potter author JK Rowling, a high-profile supporter of the UK during the 2014 referendum, tweeted that "many No voters will think again now".
The Scottish First Minister, who addressed the media at her official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, concluded: "There are many people who voted against independence in 2014 who are reassessing their decision - indeed a very large number of them have contacted me already."