The UK’s recent withdrawal from the European Union has led to pressure mounting for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Unison’s Scottish council has voted to give its backing for the Scottish parliament to be given ‘Section-30’ powers, which would allow it to call a second referendum on its own, without the need for Westminster’s backing.
The union’s annual meeting in Glasgow backed the position by a large majority, although its leadership stressed that the organisation would not campaign for one on side or another in a second vote.
The motion described a desire to acknowledge the “sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs,” which in the wake of the UK quitting the EU could see the Scottish public vote for independence and re-join the European Union as an independent state.
Unison describes itself as the largest “public services union in Europe” with 1.3 million members in the UK, including 150,000 living in Scotland, thus its support for a new referendum is an important boost to the cause.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has been keen to advertise Unison’s stance, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon retweeting it to demonstrate her party’s agreement with their view.
Sturgeon has further outlined the SNP’s ambition for a second referendum with a recent post on the SNP website calling on the EU to “leave the light on” for an independent Scotland to rejoin.
The required transfer of powers for a second referendum is currently unlikely to happen, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated his opposition and suggested that it would violate the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement, which according to his interpretation confirmed that a second referendum would go against the spirit of the 2014 vote.
European Union Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier has ruled out a future trade deal if the UK seeks divergent regulations on trade.
The potential economic threat presented by this may fuel demands for independence as it would allow Scotland to rejoin the European Union on its own.
Member of European Parliament and Brexit Negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has repeatedly suggested that an independent Scotland would be welcome to become part of the EU and that it would be foolish of the bloc to deny such a move.
EU membership is a key part of the nationalist appeal, as Scotland voted by over 62 per cent to remain part of the EU and every Scottish council area had a majority of votes in favour of that outcome.
The SNP has pointed out that the pro-unionist side used Britain’s status as an EU member and a lack of certainty over whether Scotland could rejoin on its own as an argument in the 2014 plebiscite and understands that its pro-European stance is overwhelmingly popular north of the border.
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