The political ramifications of Britain’s historic decision to leave the European Union began early.
Not long after polls confirmed that the British people had endorsed a Brexit vote by 52 to 48 percent, United Kingdom Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the Remain campaign, announced his resignation outside his official residence at10 Downing Street. He declared his intention to stand down by October.
As the pound plummeted and the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, sought to calm financial markets in the referendum’s aftermath, many eyes looked towards the two nations of the UK that voted to remain in the EU: Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Scotland, which registered a 62 percent Remain vote, and which saw its capital city, Edinburgh, vote to retain the UK’s EU status by 74 percent, immediately fell under the political spotlight as observers speculated on the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum almost two years after the first, when the people of Scotland rejected statehood by 55 to 45 percent.
The nation’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), said the Brexit vote, which was carried by England and Wales, had now made a second poll “highly likely”.
Indeed, the SNP’s manifesto for last month’s Scottish Parliament election, where the pro-EU party won an unprecedented third successive term in government, declared that there should only be a second independence poll if there was a “significant and material change of circumstances”. On Friday, the first minister confirmed the Brexit vote as that “material change”.
“It puts Scotland in an interesting place – but not in a place where the SNP leadership wanted it to be,” said the prominent UK and Scottish political commentator, Gerry Hassan, speaking to Al Jazeera. “The United Kingdom has moved itself geopolitical to a place which is very uncomfortable for Scotland. The SNP leadership is in a position where they have tried to balance two different constituencies – the enthusiasm of the most passionate independence supporters and the realization of the need to slowly win over the soft ‘no’ [to independence voters]. That balancing act is now much more difficult.”