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Will Brexit Cost Breakup of Britain?

  • Henry Ridgwell

Scotland’s government has demanded a second referendum on independence following Britain’s vote last month to leave the European Union.

Recent polls show a majority of Scots support breaking away from the rest of Britain so that Scotland can remain in the EU, an indication that many of those who voted against independence in the referendum two years ago have switched sides since the 'Brexit' vote.

Among them is Pamela Jenkins, who lives with her partner and two young boys in the former shale oil mining town of Winchburgh, just outside Edinburgh.

Jenkins said she saw a world of opportunity for her children growing up inside the European Union, but now is devastated by Britain’s vote to leave the bloc.

“I’m so mortified that the country that I live in has opted out for such horrific reasons, sheer xenophobia and racism in my opinion. I don’t see our United Kingdom now as something so wonderful as I did before,” she said.

Jenkins said she is no Scottish nationalist – but in another referendum, she would choose a European future over remaining part of Britain.

“I did not have my children to bring them into a world where they were part of an isolated Britain with values that I cannot identify with," said Jenkins. "So I would like them to grow up within the EU, absolutely. And if voting for an independent Scotland means that that’s more likely to happen, then that’s what I would do.”

A general view shows part of the outskirt of Glasgow, Scotland, July 1, 2016. All 32 council areas in Scotland as well as Northern Ireland voted for Britain to stay in the bloc.

A general view shows part of the outskirt of Glasgow, Scotland, July 1, 2016. All 32 council areas in Scotland as well as Northern Ireland voted for Britain to stay in the bloc.


Switching sides

Jenkins is not alone. Polls taken after the Brexit vote show around 60 percent of Scots now support independence, against 45 percent in the 2014 referendum.

Ben Nisbet, a student at Edinburgh University, has also switched sides since the 2014 referendum.

“I would really, really be inclined to vote ‘Yes’ to an independent Scotland, and that’s something that I’m really surprised about,” he told VOA.

Nisbet said his generation has benefited hugely from EU membership, in terms of being able to travel freely without visas and for other reasons.

"I’ve got a younger brother who has Down Syndrome," he said. "And the EU has been really active in engaging with people with additional needs.”

The wider picture, however, is more complex. In the historic heart of Edinburgh, music band "The Spinning Blowfish" blast out a modern version of the patriotic folk song ‘Scotland the Brave’ to the delight of the dozens of tourists gathered to watch the performance.

The band is a Scottish-Italian trio: European integration personified, but bagpiper David Spiers voted to leave the European Union, because he said the EU was undemocratic.

“I also voted in favor of Scotland becoming independent in 2014. But I accept that we lost that vote, and it was very, very recent. And I don’t think we should have another referendum just to try to undo the decision that’s been made,” he said.

The EU vote has ignited a debate over identity and democracy, and like so much in British politics following the EU vote, the consequences are as yet unclear.

Scotland’s warning to the government in London is that the price of ‘Brexit’ could well be the breakup of Britain itself.

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