Battle over Scotland's future rages year after referendum

18th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

A year since Scotland voted against independence in a historic referendum, questions remain over the country's future in the United Kingdom with nationalists waiting for the right moment to push for another vote.

Though independence was rejected by 55 percent of the electorate in the September 2014 referendum, two polls this month have shown a majority of Scots now support a break-up of the centuries-old union.

"A year ago today, this country changed," Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to say in a speech on Friday marking the anniversary of the vote, according to released remarks.

"It changed for the better, and it changed for good... We discovered our voice, and found that as a nation we could make the world listen."

Sturgeon's separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) enjoyed a surge in popularity after the vote, going from holding just six seats in Britain's national parliament in London to winning 56 -- almost every seat in Scotland -- in a general election in May.

The party is due to set out the circumstances that would cause it to seek another referendum in its manifesto for the Scottish regional elections in 2016.

One possible trigger would be if Britain were to vote to leave the European Union in a referendum due by 2017, Sturgeon has said in the past.

But Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that the issue of independence was settled last year.

"We all agreed, as do the Scottish public, that the independence referendum should be a 'once in a generation' or a 'once in a lifetime' event," Cameron is due to say on Friday, according to released remarks.

"So now it is time to move on."

The SNP accuse Cameron of failing to deliver extra powers promised for the Scottish parliament, known as Holyrood, on the eve of the referendum to convince Scots to stay in the United Kingdom.

But the prime minister insists he is focused on keeping the promise.

"On the anniversary of that historic vote, let me be repeat: We are delivering a new, accountable and permanent Scottish Parliament. Holyrood will be one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world," he will say on Friday.

Polling expert John Curtice said that while those who would vote "Yes" for independence appear to be on the increase, nationalists would not seek another vote without a decisive lead.

"This small but perceptible swing to 'Yes' during the course of the last year means we cannot be sure who would win if a second referendum were held today," Curtice said.

"The narrowness of the polls means the (SNP) party is reluctant to make an unequivocal commitment to holding a second referendum for fear that it could lose again."


© 2015 AFP

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