The first minister of Scotland is not giving in and will propose to Downing Street and its Conservative occupant Boris Johnson a date and a question for the second Scottish independence referendum. Nicola Sturgeon launched the journey to a new independence referendum on Tuesday, and it will probably arrive a year after next May's elections, in which the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) will stand with the proposed referendum as a key element of her campaign to repeat the party's victory and regain the absolute majority it lost in 2016. The SNP currently has 63 of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, well ahead of the 31 held by the Conservatives, but six fewer than the 69 it had in the previous legislature in which the first referendum was called after an agreement between Sturgeon's predecessor in office, Alex Salmond, and the then-prime minister of the UK, David Cameron.
Since September 2014, when the Scottish pro-independence party lost the referendum with a difference of over ten points - 55.3% of those who voted said they were against independence, with only 44.7% in favour - a lot of water had gone under the bridge and the electoral map has been heavily affected by two facts: the British government's failure to keep its promises on what it would do if Scots rejected independence, and the outcome of the Brexit vote, with the UK's exit from the European Union. The broken promises are blatant and irritated many Labour supporters who were drawn by London’s promises to improve Scottish self-government and had changed their vote at the last minute. As well, the Brexit issue has generated a current of sympathy between Brussels and Edinburgh as a clear majority of Scots are in favor of continuing in the EU. These two circumstances have catapulted the SNP in the most recent elections and so, for example, the last time the UK went to the polls last December, the Scottish pro-independence party won 48 of the 59 seats it contested, turning Sturgeon into a key figure. The magnificent election result, along with the situation generated by Brexit, has led her to be considered the most dangerous woman in British politics.
Although Boris Johnson's position is to refuse a new referendum, Labour maintains an ambiguous stance, veering one way and the other. The battle is most interesting, however, in that it signifies the return to the heart of Europe of debates over the independence of territories that are not currently states. In fact, Catalonia in 2017 tried to follow in the footsteps of Scotland even though it found that Madrid was not London and did not want to negotiate any referendum, and left the Catalan executive with the dilemma of carrying out the vote unilaterally or stepping back from its electoral commitment. The result was what it was and the situation of that undemocratic action by the Rajoy government led to the police violence of the 1st October 2017 and the imprisonment and exile of the government of Catalonia.
We will now see how Johnson responds and what Sturgeon will do in turn and how far their struggle on the independence initiative will go. Cameron opened a route which led him to be severely criticized, but he showed an impeccable democratic stubbornness, which ended up costing him his job months later. Sturgeon has made a first move.