Majority of the people voted to stay together in the 2014 referendum. Why is a second referendum proposed? Does it have something to do with Brexit?



1 Answer 1


The 2014 independence referendum was accepted as being a once in a generation referendum, unless there was a "material change of circumstances". The SNP is arguing that Brexit amounts to a material change in circumstances and therefore the criteria have been met for another referendum.

One of the big issues in the 2014 referendum was Scotland's membership of the EU. Scotland is generally in favour of the EU, and during the campaign many pro-union people made a big deal of an independent Scotland's chances of joining the EU, saying that the only way for Scotland to be a member of the EU would be as part of the UK.

However less than 2 years later the UK government announced there would be a referendum on whether the UK should continue to be a member of the EU. Scotland voted heavily in favour of remaining in the EU (62%) while the UK as a whole narrowly voted to leave (51.9%). So Scotland was now being removed from the EU against its will.

There's no way of knowing how much the EU membership question affected the 2014 referendum results, but the SNP argue that leaving the EU alone represents a significant change in circumstances. They also argue that the UK government's approach to Brexit is detrimental to the interests of Scotland. They say that the UK government has not included the devolved governments of the various parts of the UK in discussions, and that their approach amounts to a power grab.

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    Good answer, I would point out, however, that the 'material change' wasn't really accepted by the Westminster government, but was given by the SNP itself during the 2015 election campaign as the only circumstances under which they would seek another indy ref. Given that the party holds practically all Scottish Westminster seats and is in government in Holyrood however, there is definitely an argument that they have a mandate for that position.
    – CDJB
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 9:24
  • The SNP were already calling for a second referendum before the EU referendum was even held - the SNP want independence at basically any cost.
    – user16741
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 9:29
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    @CDJB to be fair to the the SNP, the quote in that link says "Something material would have to change in terms of the circumstances or public opinion" A change in public opinion does not require any significant outside event.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 9:33
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    @Jontia for sure - the point I was making was that this was an argument presented by the SNP post-referendum, not one accepted by the Westminster government or codified in legislation.
    – CDJB
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 9:34
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    @CDJB understood. One wonders why they didn't include such language when the template of the Good Friday Agreement's Border Poll was sitting in front of them. One can only assume that Westminster didn't want to go near the idea of staging an independence referendum every seven years.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 9:36

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