Skip to main content

Breaking News: WATCH LIVE: The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Posted 01/20/21 at 8:55 a.m.)

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Transfer Of Power | Racial Justice

Scotland Seeks New Vote On Independence As U.K. Hurtles Toward Brexit

Photo caption:

Photo by WPA Pool Getty Images

Scottish National Party leader and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence, saying voters endorsed the idea during the U.K.'s recent elections. Sturgeon is seen here Thursday at Bute House in Edinburgh.

The people of Scotland have already rejected the U.K.'s political agenda, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says — and now she wants them to vote in a public referendum on leaving the U.K. altogether. Sturgeon says she's sending Prime Minister Boris Johnson a letter formally requesting that Scotland be allowed to hold a vote on its future.

"Let's assert our rights as an equal nation and partner," Sturgeon told Scotland's residents as she began the push for what's widely being called #IndyRef2.

Scotland held a landmark independence vote in 2014, when roughly 55% of voters chose to remain in the U.K. But Sturgeon says times have changed drastically since then — most notably, Scotland voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 Brexit vote. She also notes that in the U.K.'s recent general election, her pro-independence Scottish National Party had one of its best showings ever at the polls.

"Scotland made very clear last week that it does not want a Tory government led by Boris Johnson taking us out of Europe and down a path that we haven't chosen," Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon unveiled her bid for a new vote as Johnson triumphantly opened a new session of Parliament, which included a Queen's Speech that focused on delivering on Johnson's pledge to leave the EU by the end of January. But in the north, the SNP had similarly campaigned on a promise to seek a new vote on independence.

"It's fascinating that on this day you have a message of unity" in London, NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, "and then up in Scotland, you have a message: 'We want to vote to be able to leave.' "

Johnson has said he's against Scotland becoming independent. Countering that, Sturgeon says that if the U.K.'s central government forbids Scotland from voting, it will bolster her argument that the relationship is too one-sided. She vowed that the vote will happen despite Johnson's resistance.

Sturgeon says her party wants to hold the referendum sometime in 2020. She did not specify a date.

In her statement about independence, Sturgeon sometimes seemed to echo the language the U.K.'s staunchest Brexit backers have used to discuss the European Union — but instead of invoking a "superstate" that threatens the sovereignty of its members, Sturgeon said the U.K. is best seen as "a voluntary association."

"Scotland is not a region questioning its place in a larger unitary state; we are a country in a voluntary union of nations," the first minister says, in a paper that was released Thursday.

And in a passage that could require a trigger warning for anyone who's recently undergone a painful breakup, Sturgeon went on to say that while Scotland and the U.K. will always be "our closest allies and neighbors," people in Scotland should be able to explore whether "the time has come for a new, better relationship, in which we can thrive as a genuine partnership of equals."

The new push to leave the U.K. comes one day after an SNP politician made waves for crossing his fingers as he pledged an oath to Queen Elizabeth II during his swearing-in ceremony at Parliament.

Sturgeon says that since Scotland originally voted on self-determination in 2014, "there has been a material change in circumstances" in the U.K.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.