More than two years after Scots voted to stay in the United Kingdom in a nationwide referendum, independence may yet again be on the agenda. "I'm 85 or 90 percent sure at least that we're heading towards another referendum," Ross Greer (pictured above), a Greens lawmaker, told Reuters on Monday. The renewed push comes as the country prepares for the United Kingdom’s departure from Europe — a move that remains deeply unpopular in Scotland. Over 60 percent of Scots voted to remain in the continental union. And with Brexit negotiations approaching, new polling indicates support for secession is expanding. But while some in Scotland are hopeful about the prospect of a new referendum, pro-independence leaders have been down this road before. For centuries, in fact, Scottish nationalists have been agitating for sovereign homeland.
In the late 13th century, William Wallace — he of Braveheart fame — led an armed resistance against English rule. While Wallace’s forces were eventually put down, Robert the Bruce, who had a claim to the Scottish throne, soon took up the fight. Bruce waged a brutal guerilla war, eventually forcing the English crown to recognize Scottish independence in 1328.
The crowns would later be united when, in 1603, James VI of Scotland was named King of England and Ireland. A little over a century later, the Acts of Union formally created Great Britain — and a single Parliament based in London.
According to the BBC, “[F]or most of the 1800s, Scottish political nationalism remained dormant.” By the end of that century, however, some in Scotland were advocating for greater administrative autonomy. In 1894, a Scottish Home Rule Association was established, which sought to create a parliament in Edinburgh. In the coming years, the issue was discussed in London, but never adopted.
Then in 1934, the Scottish National Party (SNP) was founded. Its chief aim was the creation of an independent Scotland. The SNP won its first Westminster seat in 1945, though it remained largely impotent for most of its early life. It wasn’t until 1974, when the SNP won 30 percent of the Scottish vote, that nationalism truly became a political force to be reckoned with.
Two decades later, Scots voted in favor of a devolved government, establishing a Scottish Parliament for the first time since 1707. Meanwhile, the SNP continued to expand its base and in 2007 won a majority of seats in parliament. Nationalist leader Alex Salmond was elected first minister of Scotland, twice, and eventually secured an agreement with London to hold an independence referendum.
And while nationalists narrowly lost the 2014 vote, it seems demands for independence aren’t going to quiet any time soon.