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Scotland’s future not settled five years after independence vote

After the EU referendum result, the prospect of indyref2 looms large over Scottish politics.

Independence supporters want a second vote on Scotland’s place in the UK (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Independence supporters want a second vote on Scotland’s place in the UK (Andrew Milligan/PA)

By Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor

Five years on from the independence referendum, Scotland’s future is far from settled.

While a majority of Scots voted to keep the country in the UK in 2014, support for the SNP soared  in the aftermath, with party membership rising to more than 100,000.

Just eight months after the vote on independence, the SNP enjoyed a landslide victory in the Westminster election, winning 56 of the 59 seats up for grabs in Scotland.

It reduced Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to just one MP each north of the border.

Scottish Labour’s support in particular plummeted after campaigning with the Tories in the cross-party Better Together campaign in the run-up to the referendum.

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Nicola Sturgeon wrote to Theresa may, to demand Scotland be given the power to hold a second independence vote. (Scottish Government/PA Images)

In the 2016 Holyrood election, which took place just a few weeks before the UK-wide referendum on Britain’s European Union membership, the SNP manifesto said a fresh ballot should be held if there was a “material change in circumstances” from 2014.

The SNP won the election, though Nicola Sturgeon lost the overall majority her predecessor Alex Salmond had secured at Holyrood in 2011.

When the UK voted for Brexit in June 2016 – and 62% of Scots said they wanted to stay part of the EU – the SNP insisted it had a mandate for another vote.

Indeed, the day after the Brexit referendum, Ms Sturgeon said a second independence vote was “highly likely”.

In March 2017, MSPs backed her demands for discussions with Westminster over a fresh ballot – although then-prime minister Theresa May said it was “not the time” for another referendum.

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Ms Sturgeon welcomes Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside Bute House in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

With the prospect of a no-deal Brexit now looming, and with Boris Johnson having succeeded Mrs May in Downing Street, Ms Sturgeon is stepping up her calls.

In May, the First Minister suggested “towards the latter half of next year” would the the “right time” for the question of independence to be put to Scots again.

Days later, the Scottish Government published legislation that could pave the way for a fresh vote on Scottish independence, with Ms Sturgeon saying then it would be “democratic outrage” if Westminster were to block this.

In July, she said Mr Johnson becoming PM meant it was “more important than ever” for the Scottish Government to plan for such a vote.

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Infographic from PA Graphics

An opinion poll from Lord Ashcroft and Holyrood magazine in August put support for independence at 52%, when don’t knows were excluded, with 48% for the UK.

Elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice said at the time this was “consistent with the claim that in recent weeks there has been a small but potentially significant swing in favour of Yes”.

He said the poll had found there was “as much as a 17-point lead for Yes among Remain voters”.

The professor added the new PM was “deeply unpopular among those who voted Remain”.

PA

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