The EU’s royal blue flag with yellow stars, meanwhile, will continue flying at the entrance of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. The legislature, dominated by Sturgeon’s pro-independence Scottish National Party, voted again this week to try and force another vote on breaking away from the rest of the UK and ultimately rejoining the continent’s single market.
Sturgeon calls Brexit an “affront to democracy” because Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU in 2016. As the country officially left at 11pm UK time on Friday, Sturgeon was repeating her vow to give Scots the chance to choose their own future. Her problem is that Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is refusing to grant the power she requires to hold a legal vote on independence.
“Brexit has put Scotland on the wrong road,” she said. “And the further down it we go, the longer it will take and the harder it will be to get back on the right one. We need back on the right road as soon as possible.”
One of the underlying themes of Brexit has been the rumbling standoff between the two largest constituent parts of the three-centuries-old United Kingdom. After Scots voted to remain in the UK in 2014, less than two years later the UK decided to leave the EU. Since then, the political division has become even more entrenched.
Sturgeon is pushing for the UK to allow an independence vote this year and she reiterated Friday that the timetable was practical. In reality, she’s more likely to head into Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021 with the aim of redoubling her mandate.
In Edinburgh, which voted to remain in the EU more than any other British city, demonstrators gathered outside the parliament to lament the end of the UK’s 47 years of EU membership. The event, called “Missing EU Already,” culminated with a candle-lit vigil.
Government buildings St Andrew’s House, in Edinburgh, and Victoria Quay, in Glasgow, were lit in the blue and yellow colours of the European flag on Friday.
Scots voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent to stay in the union with England and Wales in part because the UK was an EU member. Polls suggest the country is still split and the result of any new vote would be too close to call. A YouGov survey of 1039 voters age 16 or over published on Brexit eve found 51 per cent to 49 per cent in favour of independence.
Sturgeon says Brexit means Scotland should be allowed to vote again. At last month’s election that handed Johnson the power to push through Brexit, the SNP won 48 of Scotland’s 59 districts on a platform of demanding a fresh decision on independence.
But it took less than an hour after Wednesday’s vote in the Scottish Parliament for another referendum for the result to be rejected by Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack. He repeated the UK government’s argument that the 2014 vote was a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity. The ruling Conservatives also said it was a “day of embarrassment” for the Scottish Parliament to debate whether to keep the EU flag flying.
That leaves Sturgeon and Johnson at loggerheads, and tensions between Scotland and England, which came together to form Great Britain in 1707, are likely to multiply. Johnson is seeking a quick trade deal with the EU and Sturgeon is headed toward a Scottish Parliament election next year determined to put the issue of full autonomy back to the people.
There’s also a growing dispute over immigration and the future of foreign nationals living in the UK. The Edinburgh-based government earlier this week put forward plans for a special Scottish visa designed to encourage people to move to the country, which is at risk of a labor shortage.
Sturgeon’s semi-autonomous administration, though, isn’t responsible for Scotland’s immigration policy and the proposal was rejected outright by the UK government.
“This is the human element of Brexit,” SNP lawmaker Fiona Hyslop said, citing the contribution to Scotland’s economy by the 300,000 or so EU nationals living there. Leaving the EU flag outside parliament is an important signal to them that they’re welcome and valued in Scotland, she said.