Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon: Second Scottish independence vote 'highly likely'

By Martin Robinson, Matt Dathan

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she could call a new independence referendum within months.

Scotland's first minister said a second vote in just two years on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom in now "highly likely" after Britain voted to quit the EU.

Two thirds of Scottish voters backed staying the EU yesterday - but because of a huge revolt in Middle England and Wales the UK decided to cuts its ties with Brussels.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will begin to prepare the legislation required to enable a second independence referendum to take place and said it was "inconceivable" the UK Government could stop it.

She said: "There is no doubt circumstances since 2014 have changed. The option of a second referendum must be on the table and it is on the table."

While the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union, Scots overwhelmingly opted to remain, with Ms Sturgeon declaring the result meant there had been a "significant and material change in the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence" in 2014.

She said: "As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable."

Furious Scottish nationalists had already pounced on today's historic vote to leave the EU by immediately demanding a second referendum on splitting from the UK.

The SNP said the UK faces a "constitutional crisis" after Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU but is on course to cut ties with Brussels after the Leave won the overall UK vote.

All 32 authorities north of the border delivered majority wins for Remain and joined only London and Northern Ireland as areas that did not vote for Brexit.

Irish republicans have already used the referendum result to call for the reunification of Ireland.

While the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union, Scots overwhelmingly opted to remain, with Ms Sturgeon declaring the result meant there had been a 'significant and material change in the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence' in 2014.

She said: "As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable."

Furious Scottish nationalists had already pounced on today's historic vote to leave the EU by immediately demanding a second referendum on splitting from the UK.

The SNP said the UK faces a "constitutional crisis" after Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU but is on course to cut ties with Brussels after the Leave won the overall UK vote.

All 32 authorities north of the border delivered majority wins for Remain and joined only London and Northern Ireland as areas that did not vote for Brexit.

Irish republicans have already used the referendum result to call for the reunification of Ireland.

After counting had finished in the early hours of this morning, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland had delivered an "unequivocal" vote to stay in Europe and said it was "clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union".

It suggests she is already planning a second independence referendum after the SNP manifesto for the Scottish elections last month said they would demand another vote if there is "significant and material" change in circumstances, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will.

The passionate pro-union Harry Potter author JK Rowling angrily hit out at David Cameron, accusing him of putting the future of the UK in jeopardy for calling the referendum in the first place.

She wrote: "Scotland will seek independence now. Cameron's legacy will be breaking up two unions. Neither needed to happen."

This morning Ms Sturgeon's predecessor as First Minister Alex Salmond said he was "quite certain" Ms Sturgeon would "implement the manifesto" because England is "dragging us out the EU".

He said a second referendum on splitting from the UK should be held within two years so Scotland is not forced out of the EU.

The process of withdrawing from Brussels will take up to two years from when the UK Government triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty - which sets out the formal arrangements for leaving.

"From when that starting gun is fired, it's a two-year period," Mr Salmond said of the withdrawal process.

Insisting a second independence referendum was justified, he added: 'So whatever that period is - two years, two-and-a-half years, that would have to be the timescale of the next referendum because what you would want to do is remain in the European Union while the rest of the UK moved out.'

Holyrood External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hylsop warned that a decision by the UK to quit Europe would have 'consequences'.

She told the BBC: "Scotland clearly and decisively voted to remain part of the European Union, 62 to 38 with an increased turn out form the Scottish Parliament elections barely six weeks ago.

"That sends a strong message, it's quite clear we see a different type of politics in Scotland, a different approach to constitutional affairs.'

"I think people will be looking very closely at this result and looking at the prospects for Scotland and what is in the best interests of Scotland going forward.

"We're quite clear, the Scottish Government will protect Scotland's interests whatever the circumstances and we intend to do that."

How the Scottish Government will do that "will depend on exactly what the result is", Ms Hyslop added.

"But we're very clear, the Scottish people have spoken. Their interests are about maintaining that membership, they are interested in maintaining our relations with Europe. We have to find the means with which we can do that."

While she said there is "some way to go in determining the mechanism of doing that," she said: "Decisions have consequences and if the United Kingdom has made a decision against the interests of the Scottish people that will have consequences."

After all the results north of the border were declared, Ms Sturgeon said: 'Scotland has delivered a strong, unequivocal vote to remain in the EU, and I welcome that endorsement of our European status.

"And while the overall result remains to be declared, the vote here makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union."

She added: "Scotland has contributed significantly to the Remain vote across the UK. That reflects the positive campaign the SNP fought, which highlighted the gains and benefits of our EU membership, and people across Scotland have responded to that positive message.

"We await the final UK-wide result, but Scotland has spoken - and spoken decisively."

A furious Mr Salmond told the BBC: "Scotland looks like it is going to vote solidly Remain. If there was a Leave vote in England, dragging us out the EU, I'm quite certain Nicola Sturgeon would implement the SNP manifesto."

- Daily Mail

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