A win for Scottish Nationalists. Would a Brexit renew their independence fight?
The Scottish National Party's win may reignite the debate over independence from Britain, analysts say, especially if Britain votes to exit the EU come June 23.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has secured a third term to head of Scotland's semi-autonomous government, a win analysts say is likely to boost the party's momentum and chances of another independence referendum after a failed bid in 2014.
The SNP won 63 seats in Scotland's parliamentary elections, two short of the 65 required for majority in the 129-seat Parliament, and six down from the 69 they took in 2011. The still-strong showing dealt a blow to the Labour Party, traditionally a favorite in Edinburgh, suggesting that party leader Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing views may be alienating centrist voters.
The Labor Party's performance in the election was considered vital for the survival of the "in campaign," which seeks to keep Britain in the European Union, ahead of a June 23 referendum on the possible breakaway. But as that date draws near, and the Conservative party remains divided on the issue, there is a renewed concern that Scotland may renew its quest to seek independence from Britain.
63 percent of Scottish people are in favor of staying in the EU, according to a recent YouGov poll, and SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that she would seek independence if Scotland is forced out of the EU following the potential 'Brexit.'
The rest of Britain is divided on the issue. Overall, some 41 percent of British citizens support a Brexit while 40 percent want Britain to remain in the EU, according to the Economist's Brexit pool-tracker. Sixteen percent of the voters still don't know where they stand.
"If Scotland is unwillingly dragged out of the EU, there is no doubt in my mind it would galvanize support for a 'Yes' vote [for Scottish independence]," Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, a marketing chief executive officer and founder of the pro-independence campaign group Business for Scotland, told NBC news.
"A 'Leave' vote would create mean a wider constitutional crisis because Scotland's continued membership of the EU was one of the key selling points by the 'No' campaign [in 2014] for voting against independence," Mr. Macintyre-Kemp added. "If Britain was no longer in the EU, Scotland should be given the chance to consider independence again on new terms."
52 percent of Scots say they would vote for independence if Scotland were forced out of the EU by a Brexit, while 48 percent said they would vote to stay.
Scotland relies on the EU for more grants than England does, as NBC reports, meaning it may have more to lose from a Brexit. Scottish officials have contemplated an EU membership without Britain, and yet there are concerns that Scotland could lose its trade benefits with the rest of the United Kingdom.
If Scotland "sought to join the EU on its own account, Scotland could lose the UK opt-out from joining the euro," Mure Dickie and George Parker write in the Financial Times. "Trading with markets in the rest of Britain – an issue of huge concern to the Scottish economy – would be governed by whatever trade agreement London struck with Brussels."