Less than two years ago, Scots who voted against becoming independent from the United Kingdom hugged and cheered to the sound of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" when referendum results came in showing that Scotland would remain in the UK.
But now, in the uncertain aftermath of Britain's unprecedented decision to exit the European Union, its northern neighbor is signaling its intention to possibly leave the UK — for real this time — and seek EU membership on its own.
On Saturday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised Scots, who voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to remain in the EU, that she would seek to protect their EU membership, and that a second independence referendum was a real possibility.
Sturgeon said in response to the Brexit vote that Scotland had spoken "decisively" with a "strong, unequivocal" vote to remain in the EU. She said it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland could be taken out of the EU "against its will."
"We will seek to enter into immediate discussions with the EU institutions and with other EU member states to explore all possible options to protect Scotland's place in the EU," Sturgeon said. "A second [Scottish] independence referendum is clearly an option that requires to be on the table, and it is very much on the table."
Scots rejected independence in the 2014 referendum by a 55-45 vote. Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP) said that EU membership through the UK was a deciding factor for many Scots who voted against independence.
Whether the European Commission will accept Scotland's bid for membership is another question. "Scotland is part of the UK," a Commission spokeswoman told Reuters. "Constitutional arrangements apply. We will not speculate further."
Reuters quoted a source close to the Scottish government as saying that Sturgeon and others were not discouraged by the EC's response, which they took only "as a statement of fact."
She said she would establish a panel of experts to advise the Scottish government on legal, financial, and diplomatic matters concerning EU membership.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on Friday called for a border poll on the unification of Ireland. Northern Ireland, like Scotland, voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.
Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said in response to the Brexit that, ultimately, the future unification of Ireland would be in the best interest of its citizens, but that holding a referendum while the Brits were negotiating their exit from the EU would only create further chaos and division.
Under a 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of sectarian violence, Northern Ireland can call a referendum if it appears likely that a majority of the electorate would seek a united Ireland.
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