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Scotland takes a step towards new independence vote

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Scotland’s announcement on Monday that it will begin preparations for a new independence bid raised the spectre of one of Brexit’s most feared consequences — the end of the United Kingdom. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would seek the semi-autonomous Scottish Parliament’s authority next week to ask the government in London for the powers to hold a referendum before Brexit happens. The decision also heightened the uncertainty surrounding Britain as London braces for two years of tough negotiations to leave the European Union — itself an unprecedented step.

Scotland rejected independence in a 2014 referendum by a majority of 55 percent but recent polls indicate support for the union in pro-EU Scotland is declining as Brexit looms. A BMG survey for Scottish daily The Herald released Monday found that 52 percent were against breaking off from the rest of Britain, while an Ipsos Mori poll last week put the number at 51 percent. The University of Aberdeen’s Scottish politics chair Michael Keating said the outcome was “wide open” as the polls were within the margin of error.

But he said Sturgeon did not want a vote immediately “because it’s the worst possible time to hold a referendum on independence: the price of oil is down and the economy is not doing very well,” he told AFP. Mark Diffley, director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said Sturgeon would be hoping that “a very different campaign than 2014, conducted during what looks like a hard Brexit, will persuade enough voters to win”. An independent Scotland would be hugely dependent on oil revenues from the North Sea fields and secession would raise many pressing economic issues, including what currency the new state could adopt.

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