Nicola Sturgeon gave a statement at Bute House in Edinburgh Friday, where she addressed ongoing speculation about the possibility of a second referendum, if Scotland voted to remain in the EU where the rest of the UK did not.
Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union with 62% of the vote, although the overall UK vote was 51.9% in favor of a so-called Brexit.
The Scottish National Party's 2016 manifesto stated that the Scottish parliament should have the right to hold another referendum in the event of a "significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014," and specifically cited Scotland being taken out of the EU against her will as an example.
"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," Sturgeon said.
Sturgeon confirmed that the Scottish Government would begin to prepare the legislation required to enable a new independence referendum. A firm supporter of Scottish independence, she said that she did not favor the circumstances in which such a referendum would have been brought about:
"This is not a situation that I wanted Scotland or the UK to be in today, but my responsibility in a climate of uncertainty is to seek to lead us forward with purpose."
Ms Sturgeon added emphatically:
"I think an independence referendum is now highly likely."
The announcement will be music to the ears of supporters of Scottish independence, many of whom have been calling for a second referendum since their narrow defeat in 2014.
@NicolaSturgeon's statement reassures EU citizens in Scotland they're valued here. Indyref2 an option on table, material change has happened— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) June 24, 2016
Stuart Campbell — editor of the pro-Scottish independence blog Wings Over Scotland — told Sputnik:
"I don't think there's any way of NOT having a second referendum on independence now, barring some crazy sort of deal by which Scotland somehow stays in the EU while the rest of the UK leaves.
"Clearly it'd be complicated — if, as the First Minister suggested, she'd seek to go the Section 30 route again, then who's going to be the UK PM who passes that order and when are they going to take over? don't think Scotland can afford to wait to be dragged out then try to get back in as a new member, it has to stay in."
Of course, holding such a referendum so soon after the last defeat in 2014, raises questions as to whether or not the pro-independence campaign could realistically win.
Campbell told Sputnik he believed that time was a major factor, saying "with Cameron not going until October that could be a problem." Overall though, he's optimistic, and points the seismic shifts in UK politics following a Brexit vote:
"It would be a radically different situation to the first one, and while there'd be traffic in both directions, my view is that there'd be more than enough of a net gain for Yes to get the extra 6% it would need over last time. There'd be at least some media support this time, at least some support from big business, and of course from the 62% of Scots who just said they don't want thrown out of Europe," Campbell told Sputnik.
Brits voted to leave the EU by a margin of 1.9% in a UK-wide referendum held on Thursday, 23 June 2016.