Scottish Leader Says New Independence Referendum ‘Highly Likely’

LONDON – Britain’s vote to exit the European Union makes another referendum on independence for pro-E.U. Scotland “highly likely,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Friday.

Sturgeon would not specify when another plebiscite on Scottish independence would take place, acknowledging that there were “many complex issues” to consider before calling a vote. But her statement underscored the turmoil into which the British political system has been plunged following the shock result in Thursday’s national referendum in favor of ditching the E.U.

Scotland, home to 5 million people, returned an overwhelming majority in support of Britain remaining a member of the 28-nation trading bloc. But as part of the United Kingdom, it is bound to go along with the overall “Leave” vote across the country.

That means the U.K. that Scots agreed to remain part of, when they rejected Scottish independence in a referendum two years ago, will not be the U.K. that was promised them: a country belonging to the European Union. In that referendum, in September 2014, Scottish independence was decisively defeated, which was supposed to settle the question for a generation.

But Sturgeon, whose ruling Scottish National Party supports Scottish independence, said that the radical change represented valid grounds for calling a new independence referendum.

“I have a duty to respond not just to the outcome across the U.K., but also and in particular to the democratic decisions taken by the people of Scotland,” Sturgeon said. “As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the E.U. against our will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable.”

She said her Cabinet would meet Saturday to discuss its next steps.

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