Scotland and the Aftermath of the Brexit Vote

Is Scotland next?

Scotland and UK flagsAnyone looking for immediate ramifications of the Brexit vote, I would recommend you read or view Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s statement on the subject.

First, she is quite clear on how Scotland voted:

Yesterday, Scotland – like London and Northern Ireland – voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.

We voted to protect our place in the world’s biggest single market – and the jobs and investment that depend on it.

We voted to safeguard our freedom to travel, live, work and study in other European countries.


Unfortunately, of course, yesterday’s result in Scotland was not echoed across the whole of the UK.

The UK wide vote to leave the EU is one that I deeply regret.


As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will.

I regard that as democratically unacceptable.

She then linked the Brexit vote to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum:

And of course we face that prospect less than two years after being told that it was our own referendum on independence that would end our membership of the European Union and that only a rejection of independence could protect it.

Indeed for many people the supposed guarantee of remaining in the EU was a driver in their decision to vote to stay within the UK.

So there is no doubt that yesterday’s result represents a significant and a material change of the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence in 2014.

My job now is to act responsibly and in the interests of all of Scotland and that is what I intend to do.

And therefore:

Lastly, let me address the issue of a second independence referendum. I intend to speak to all party leaders later today and make a full statement to the Chamber on Tuesday.

I will also make a further statement following tomorrow’s meeting of the Scottish Cabinet.

The manifesto that the SNP was elected on last month said this:

“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 the EU against our will.”

Scotland does now face that prospect – 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.

The video can be viewed here.

The only part of the statement that I found curious was the linkage to London, as she notes that Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London all voted to stay.  While factually true, I am not sure what an alliance with London does for Scotland here, given that London, being in England (which voted to leave), does not have a route to stay in the EU, while Scotland and Northern Ireland theoretically do.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Trumwill says:

    I think some people are too quick to assume that this means Scotland’s exit. Their golden ticket – oil – is not looking so good right now. It’s also not clear how accommodating the EU will be. While they might want to stick it to the Brits, there seems to be some resistance from Spain and Belgium because they have their own separatist movements to work with. The only poll I’ve seen to date had 38% support, and 48% opposition to Scottish independence in the event of Brexit.

    Some have also suggested that Northern Ireland might reunify with Ireland to get back in the EU, but I don’t see a whole lot of reason to believe that they would. Time will tell, in both cases.

    Some Londoners seem to be passing around a petition for their own independence, and that may be what she’s referring to. I can’t imagine them getting a vote, though.

  2. @Trumwill: The Ireland talks strikes me more speculation than reality and there is no way London is going anywhere, so yeah.

    I agree that independence, in general, is always difficult and therefore the safe bet tends to be against. But, while I am not willing to lay odds at the moment, I do think there is a real chance it happens. I do think the fact part of the argument for staying in the UK in 2014 was to guarantee continued access to the EU has some legs given the results here.

  3. Trumwill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: To be clear, I think there is a *very* good chance that Scotland goes. I’m not sure I would assign a percentage to it, but somewhere above 25% and probably more than a little above that. I’m just seeing some people (not you) treat it like almost a foregone conclusion, which I don’t think it is.

  4. stonetools says:

    Let’s face it, the Scots have an every reason to hold another referendum. A big part of why the Scots elected to stay is because the Better Together crowd said that the UK had a guaranteed place in the EU, whereas if Scotland went alone, it was out in the cold. Just two years,. the UK is saying it’s leaving the EU. The Scots must feel they’ve been had.
    Now it still may be better economically for Scotland to stay with the UK, but I can see anger at being lied to overwhelming that.
    Also too, Northern Ireland. We have this:

    The biggest shock of all? The DUP’s Ian Paisley Jr – son of the most staunch Unionist ever to walk the Earth – is advocating getting an Irish passport.

    This is despite the fact that his party supported a Leave vote, and as you can see from the reaction on Twitter people can’t really believe what they are seeing.

    Sinn Fein is also calling for an Irish unification vote.
    Jeet Heer tweeted the Cameron may go down in history as the British Prime Minister who re-unified Ireland.

  5. @Trumwill: I think that is fair.

  6. Guarneri says:

    I’m thinking she won’t be inviting Obama over to threaten, er, lecture, er advise Scottish voters.

    Just a hunch….

  7. Pch101 says:

    While factually true, I am not sure what an alliance with London does for Scotland here

    I’m not particularly knowledgeable of the Scottish independence movement, but I have to wonder whether the leadership is motivated by the desire to increase Scottish leverage with Westminster more than a true craving for independence per se. (For one thing, there’s the question of how they could pay for an independent Scotland.)

    It could be similar to Quebec separatism, which is driven at the grass roots by historical grievances and a desire for cultural independence but isn’t particularly realistic once the details are worked out. In the scheme of things, it’s akin to the girlfriend who keeps threatening to leave you because she hopes that it will motivate you to be nicer to her; she gets more out of the relationship by periodically expressing her discontent.

    So unifying with London makes sense if the goal is to quash Brexit while keeping the independence movement going, as it ties Scotland to something bigger than the UK and asserts the separateness of Scottish identity. London is the political, economic and cultural center of Britain and it has the most to lose from this, and it ought to be throwing its weight around instead of allowing some pensioners in the Midlands to burn the place down.

  8. CSK says:

    I lived in Scotland for a number of years. At that time, the SNP was a smaller but still very vocal and active entity. What struck me at the time was the heterogeneity of the membership: On one end of the spectrum, some identified openly as communists and followers of Antonio Gramsci; on the other end, some were ardent monarchists whose overarching goal was the restoration of the Stuart dynasty to the throne of Scotland. In the middle were Liberal Democrats, Laborites, and Tories. All they had in common was the desire for an independent Scotland.

    This is probably not still the case, but it certainly was the most eccentric political party I’ve ever encountered.

  9. JKB says:

    From what I read, if Scotland leaved Great Britain, it will still have to apply to join the EU. Apparently, Spain is hard set to oppose Scotland joining to inhibit their own separatist movements.

    As I remember, Scotland is a net recipient of UK tax dollars for their socialism.

    As for London? The only part that could in any way assert anything is the tiny, but wealthy, City of London, which has historic rights from its Medieval charter.

  10. MarkedMan says:

    I fear Irish reunification may crash on the reality that Catholicism is the official religion of Ireland. That’s not unusual, as most religions throughout Europe depend on government handouts to survive. But for the most part the state religions were long settled and people grew up with state sponsorship as established fact, with perhaps Italy as an exception, have very, very little effect on politics. And even in present day Ireland the Catholic Clergy still has significant administrative power over education and other government programs.

    My parents are from Ireland and I grew up very aware of The Troubles for an American kid. It is hard to imagine the antipathy that the Orangemen had for Catholicism. Ian Paisley Sr., the father Steven mentions above, once stood in Parliment (?) and addressed the assembled MP’s stating as fact that all Catholic women, wives, mothers or unwed, were required to prostitute themselves to any Catholic priest who desired them. He was met with applause, and these were from the “educated” protestants. Only one generation stands between that and present day Protestants. I simply can’t imagine them willing to go from nearly 50% of the population and a plurality over the Catholics, to becoming less than an eighth of the voting population.

    These problems could be resolved, but they could hardly be effectively dealt with in a year.

  11. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Guarneri: Thanks for being predictable. Not everything that happens in the world is about Obama’s Presidency, but you stood in there and pitched your fourth or fifth walk in a row. Thanks for playing, but it’s time to let someone else have a go. I think we’ll put in your reliever now…

  12. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @JKB: Just curious, did you write “leaved” in your response because you are reflexively unable to use the word “left?”

  13. stonetools says:


    You are most probably right. I still think it likely that everything remains as it is. For one thing, the establishment overwhelmingly wants the UK to stay in the EU, and Scotland and NI to remain in the UK. What the establishment wants, the establishment tends to get. The Brexit proponents are already walking back their promises, there are already signs of voter’s remorse, and people are waking up to the fact that leaving the EU is likely to be painful (it’s hard to ignore the crashing markets). The likelihood that Scotland will attempt to leave is a good pretext that the Brexiters can use to justify breaking their promise to leave . I can see PM Johnson explaining that while he wants to leave, he won’t if it means the breakup of the UK and the darned Scots just cannot be relied on to stay in the UK if Britain leaves, so the UK won’t be leaving at this time.

  14. JohnMcC says:

    @Guarneri: Why should she when Mr Trump shows up uninvited with his font of wisdom spilling continuously?

  15. grumpy realist says:

    Reading the British press, it’s amazing the number of people now saying “oh, but I didn’t know that I was actually voting for LEAVING the EU……”

    Tories were trying to use this as a protest vote “against” the elites” in some silly dick-measuring contest between two of them—-and have managed to blow up the whole system.

    Why am I reminded of how WWI started?

  16. Trumwill says:

    @grumpy realist: I’m not saying this isn’t happening, but I will believe it when I see some poll numbers reflecting it. Before then, it’s a perfect candidate for NYT trends piece *and* media trying to come to terms with an unwelcome outcome.

    (FTR, I would have voted Remain.)

  17. michael reynolds says:


    I’m fascinated by this theory. If you’re right you win OTB Prophet of the Month which I think entitles you to a preferred parking space and first pick of donuts.

  18. motopilot says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Reading the British press, it’s amazing the number of people now saying “oh, but I didn’t know that I was actually voting for LEAVING the EU……”

    This was in yesterday’s WaPo…

  19. Trumwill says:

    @michael reynolds: I think there is a non-trivial chance he’s correct. When the results were coming in I thought it was as likely as not, but the EU telling the British to go pound sand has made me think it’s less likely. But quite possible.

  20. Trumwill says:

    @motopilot: It’s energy possible, maybe probable, that the people googling it were just as likely from the Remain camp. Leavers tended to be older and we’re more likely to witness the formation of the EU.Remainers tend to be more educated, but also grew up in a new environment where something called the EU was always in the background.

  21. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Krispy Kreme donuts! I will accept no substitute:-)

    The European tabloid press is predictably in full apocalyptic mode over this,with the headlines saying that the EU in disarray , and fascism is on the march in the UK. Then there is this, from Angela Merkel:

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the European Union has “no need to be particularly nasty in any way” in the negotiations with Britain about its exit from the bloc.
    She insisted that deterring other countries from leaving the EU should not be a priority in the talks.
    And she added she was not in favour of pushing for a speedy withdrawal.
    Britain narrowly voted to end its membership in a historic referendum last Thursday.
    Mrs Merkel was speaking after several EU foreign ministers – including Germany’s – had urged Britain to quickly implement its exit.
    “It shouldn’t take forever, that’s right, but I would not fight for a short timeframe,” she said.

    She seems to be willing to play a “wait and see game”. I expect she’ll want to see how this turns out:

    A petition on the parliament website calling for a rerun of the EU referendum has gathered more than 1.5 million signatures in less than 24 hours.

    Now online petitions don’t mean much, but that I sense Merkel thinks that this referendum result may not stand, and that even if it does, the EU will survive this.
    One of the good things about the current situation is that the “Chancellor of Europe” is the kind of cool customer that is just right for a crisis like this.
    Meanwhile , here are the people who stand to lose if things go wrong:

    LONDON (AP) — A tsunami of uncertainty has engulfed Anna Woydyla, a Polish restaurant worker in London, since Britain voted to leave the European Union.

    Would her two teenage children, who grew up in the United Kingdom, still qualify for loans to study at British universities? Would she and her husband, after 11 years of working here, have to sell the home they just bought? Leave their jobs? Leave their new country? Try to apply for citizenship?

    The 41-year-old is among hundreds of thousands of European Union workers in Britain who are fearful and confused over what happens next as their adoptive country begins the long process of unwinding its many ties to continental Europe.

    “If it were just me, I could even return to Poland,” a visibly tense Woydyla said as she stocked a bar in an Italian restaurant in London’s Camden district. “But my kids are more English than Polish. They don’t even want to go to Poland for their holidays anymore. They even speak to each other in English.”

    It’s always good to remember that this is just not a spectacle for our own amusement , but that real people are at risk about this.

  22. Andre Kenji says:

    There are two things to consider:

    1-) Politically speaking, Scotland is very different from the rest of the UK. Imagine a larger Vermont with oil. That a large motivation about independence, in some sense.

    The election of a Tory Prime-Minister was a large motivation in the SNP 2011 victory.

    2-) Italy and Spain are not eager to accept an independent Scotland in the UE. They have their own problems with separatism in Basque Country and specially in South Tyrol and Catalonia.

  23. stonetools says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    I think the Scots will argue that the difference is that they are already in the EU and that they want to stay there, it’s the rest of the UK that wants to leave.
    I might add that the EU has already accepted breakaway states like Slovenia and Croatia into the EU, so it would not be an unprecedented development to accept such states. And Scotland has a lot more to offer the EU than Slovenia.

  24. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Andre Kenji: considering how recent, historically, Italy managed finally to pull itself together and the antics of the Lombardy League, am sort of surprised Itally hasn’t said good riddance already….

  25. Tyrell says:

    Looks like the nwo – one world government just took a hit. People don’t want it.

  26. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: “The establishment”: right there, that is the problem. The people seem to be very disenchanted with the establishment and whatever is connected to it. Think about OWS, the popularity of Sanders and Trump, the surveys that show a large amount of dissatisfaction, the distrust of large, secretive groups that seem to have all the power now. As I have stated before, people want no part of a one world – new world order. People here look at what has been happening in Europe for the last few years, and they are saying “no way”. It will be interesting to see what Germany does. Merkel is trying to make some moves, but it may be too late. Borders and border guards are returning.

    “The Germans had the biggest ship that had the biggest guns
    The Bismarck was the fastest ship that ever sailed the sea” (Johnny Horton – “Sink the Bismarck ! “)