Boris Johnson is due to visit Scotland on Thursday arguing that the country is doing better as part of the UK. The journey is widely viewed as part of a “charm offensive” by the Prime Minister in response to growing support for Scottish independence. What is the Scottish independence debate about? Put simply, the question is whether Scotland should remain part of Great Britain or become an independent country. Did Scotland no longer have an independence referendum? Yes, with Scottish voters supporting it will remain in the UK by 55% to 45% in September 2014.
Why is he now in the spotlight again? The independence debate never really went away, but Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, began openly pushing for another referendum – often referred to as Indyref2 – immediately after Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016. Scots backed the referendum by 62% to 38%, but the UK as a whole voted to leave between 52% and 48%.
For nationalists, this was proof that Scotland should take its own future into its own hands, rather than being attached to Britain and its conservative government.
Many wanted indyref2 to be held before the UK left the EU in a bid to stop Scotland being “dragged out against its will” – but the argument is now that independence could allow Scotland to rejoin the EU in the future.
The SNP, which forms a pro-independence majority at Holyrood alongside the Scottish Greens, has spent much of the past five years arguing that its electoral success alongside the Brexit vote means it has a “cast-iron mandate” to hold a referendum.
- Could indyref2 be held without the UK’s consent?
It has so far failed to deliver indyref2 because the UK government has refused to grant the formal consent that Ms Sturgeon has previously said would be needed to ensure any referendum is seen as being legal.
But a series of opinion polls suggesting that more people in Scotland now favour independence has rattled unionists ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May – when the SNP looks to be on course for another victory.