Proposed Referendum in Scotland and Northern Ireland Signals Possibility for Independence

By Ayaan Ali

New York City, New York

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argues that because of its past failures, a new vote on independence is not necessary (Photo Credit: Jeff J. Mitchell, Getty Images)

On January 23, prominent members of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) published a “Plan to Referendum.” The document outlines a plan for another vote on Scottish independence and exit from the United Kingdom. The plan comes seven years after a failed vote for independence in Scottish Parliament and at a time when Britain is grappling with a new deadly strain of COVID-19 and Brexit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson argues that because of its past failures, a new vote on independence is not necessary. However, the SNP has maintained that if it wins the majority in the nation’s parliamentary elections on May 6, then they will officially introduce and vote on the plan. Scottish Constitutional Secretary Mike Russell corroborated that “[t]his is the surest way by far to becoming an independent country. The referendum should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. The SNP believes that should be in the early part of the new term.”


The plan has been repeatedly criticized by opposition parties such as the Scottish Labour Party. Labour Interim Leader Jackie Ballie stated that “Scotland is deep in turmoil with thousands facing a cost of living crisis and thousands more people being lost to the virus. It is inexcusable that at this time of acute crisis the SNP seeks to put its plan for independence above everything else.” Ballie argues that Scotland needs the U.K. for COVID-19 relief after cases surged in the country in January. In fact, shortly after his statement, the U.K. government allocated £1.1 billion ($1.525 billion) to the Scottish government for COVID-19 relief.


Additionally, there have been calls for independence in Northern Ireland. A poll by The Sunday Times found that 51 percent of the Northern Irish population supports a referendum for independence from the U.K. and unification with Southern Ireland. However, no official plan has been introduced into the Northern Irish legislature. They also found that across all four member states of the U.K., voters believed that Scotland would be independent in the next ten years.