A bill detailing the plans for a second Scottish independence referendum was submitted on Thursday, 20 October by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for review by the Electoral Commission of Scotland.
This marks the beginning of a decision which has been long hinted at by the Scottish National Party (SNP) and their leader Sturgeon since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU) in June, despite the fact that Scotland voted to remain unanimously across all constituencies, with a 62 per cent majority.
If the Electoral Commission were to approve the bill, it would be highly likely that the referendum vote would take place imminently, as the only other requirement for its institution is a majority vote in Scottish Parliament. Currently both the SNP and the Scottish Green Party (SGP) support the referendum, meaning it would be likely a majority would be achieved.
Speaking to ITV News, Sturgeon expressed her optimism that a second independence referendum would indeed take place: “I think it’s highly likely, given the situation we’re in. I said that the morning after the EU referendum and nothing has changed my mind,” she said.
She continued: “If anything, what’s happened since then has probably made me think that [a second independence referendum is necessary] even more so than I did the morning after the referendum.”
According to the First Minister’s bill, the referendum would take place within the two year time frame set by the triggering of Article 50, which Prime Minister Theresa May has stated is scheduled to happen in February 2017.
The triggering of Article 50 would begin the process of the UK severing ties with the EU, thus creating a mandate for Scotland to gain its independence and join the EU as its own country, according to Sturgeon and her party supporters.
Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the SGP, has come out in support of a second independence referendum as well: “We find ourselves with the results of two referendums which can’t fit together. We have a two year old 55 per cent mandate and this year’s 62 per cent mandate. The UK which people voted for in 2014 no longer exists.
“We must prepare for the next independence campaign, not just to win a Yes vote, but to win a better Scotland. Greens will continue to strengthen the case on issues such as currency and industrial strategy”, Harvie told the BBC.
However, many Westminster members believe a second referendum for Scottish independence is uncalled for and unlikely to pass, coming only two years after the first referendum for Scottish independence failed to pass by a 55 per cent majority.
When speaking to The Scotsman, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister Theresa May, said: “The Prime Minister and the Government does not believe that there is a mandate for one [a second independence referendum]. There was one only two years ago. There was an extremely high turnout and there was a resounding result in favour of Scotland remaining in the UK.”
There is the possibility that the UK Government could refuse to endorse a second Scottish independence referendum if it were to come about through the triggering of Article 50. This would be a considered a very controversial decision on the part of the Prime Minster.
However, many of her Westminster peers believe that the impending chaos that would be caused by Scottish independence talks coinciding with Brexit talks could be far worse.
“She couldn’t possibly ride two horses”, an anonymous Westminster insider told Herald Scotland.
“It would be difficult dealing with one set of talks; to have to do another would be a nightmare.”
An anonymous Liberal Democrat MP in Westminster seconded this sentiment, saying that: “If you have another referendum after the Brexit talks, it could be an even worse time-frame because of all the things that have to happen. It would be just chaos.”