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Just one year on, Scotland envisages new referendum

Just one year on, Scotland envisages new referendum

LONDON: Scottish nationalists backed by James Bond star Sean Connery are planning to push for a new independence referendum amid rising support for separation, just 12 months after a historic vote that they lost.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her Scottish National Party (SNP) would outline its proposals in a manifesto ahead of May 2016 regional elections and could foresee a vote “in five years or 10 years”.

“Our manifesto will set out what we consider are the circumstances and the timescale on which a second referendum might be appropriate,” Sturgeon told the Press Association news agency on Sunday.

On the first anniversary of the Sept 18 referendum, which the nationalists lost with 45 per cent in favour of independence and 55pc against, polls indicate a new vote could go differently.

In one by TNS published last week, 47pc of respondents said they would vote “Yes” against 42pc for “No” — with the rest undecided.

“It’s only a matter of time,” the 85-year-old Connery told The Sun tabloid, Britain’s top-selling daily.

“The people of Scotland — the real guardians of Scotland — spoke in the referendum. They spoke again by majority in the election,” he was quoted as saying.

The SNP dominates the Scottish parliament and won 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats in the Westminster parliament in the British general election in May.

The SNP is set to unveil its referendum proposal at a party conference in Aberdeen next month and the momentum is building from other organisations too.

Biding time

The trouble is Prime Minister David Cameron, who is planning a controversial referendum on Britain’s European Union membership by 2017 at the latest, is in no hurry to go back on the Scottish question.

In July, Cameron said of the Scottish referendum result: “It was decisive so I do not see the need for another one”.

Malcolm Harvey, a politics professor at Aberdeen University in Scotland, said the SNP will not campaign for a quick referendum and will instead bide its time to ensure that it will definitely win.

“For this to be the case, we would need to see multiple, probably 25 to 30, polls consistently putting independence well ahead of the union, say 60 to 40 per cent,” Harvey told AFP.

“The Scottish public are small-c conservative, concerned with the economic impact and will not change their constitutional position lightly — there would have to be a seismic event which would tip the preference in favour of independence,” he said.

Exhilaration and divisions

The referendum did not separate Scotland from the rest of the country but it has changed it.

The SNP has grown since the result, with its membership going up from 25,000 to 100,000.

“There’s a huge interest in politics as we have never seen before,” Keith Brown, the infrastructure minister in the Scottish government, told AFP.

Sturgeon herself said her memory of the campaign was “the sense of exhilaration and excitement and sense that the country was really alive with discussion about its future”.

Alistair Darling, a former government minister who headed up the “Better Together” campaign against independence, said his memory of the vote was the rifts that it caused in Scottish society.

“I have never come across some of the divisions, amongst friends, amongst family, people saying things to each other that I would have thought unbelievable,” he said.

“I think that it is corrosive, it won’t go away — this is not something you can easily fix and it’s almost being encouraged by the nationalists — this idea that if you’re not for them you’re against Scotland.—AFP

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2015

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