The earliest a second independence referendum in Scotland could take place is in the next two to two-and-a-half years—provided other methods of protecting Scotland’s interests within the European framework are unsuccessful.
This was stated by Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland and presently the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the British parliament, on Tuesday in London.
He was answering questions on the fallout of Brexit for Scotland at a meeting organised by the Foreign Press Association.
Mr. Salmond said Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (which sets out how an EU member state can voluntarily leave the club) is likely to be triggered in the next two to three months by the Prime Minister who will succeed David Cameron. Then there is a two-year countdown after which a decision on a second Scottish Referendum could be taken.
Three mandates Mr. Salmond said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has received three popular mandates “to protect Scottish interests within a European framework”.
These are the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, the general elections held in 2015, and now the European Referendum, in which Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. “With that mandate, her prime aim is to ensure the protection of Scottish interests within the EU framework and all that goes with that — including jobs and security, investment, and the position of the Scottish economy.”
This could happen even without Scottish independence, he argued. “If we can establish a European single market during the negotiations, then much of the damage to the economy starts to disappear,” he said, adding, however, that such a concession is not likely to be given by the EU.
Mr. Cameron is “deeply culpable” for the “confusion and chaos” in Westminster following the vote, said Mr. Salmond.
“You never call a referendum unless you want to do something, whether it is independence or a change in the voting system, or even for a new national anthem. David Cameron basically didn’t want to do anything, and is now facing a situation fraught with uncertainty. “
The absence of any contingency planning for Brexit is “extraordinary,” Mr. Salmond said. In 2014, before the Scottish Independence Referendum, the SNP issued a 670-page white paper detailing every step of a post-Independence scenario. “We also had a series of plans ready. For example, we had plans of announcing the composition of Scotland’s Central Bank at hand on the day after the referendum result in the event of an ‘Out’ vote.”