UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday doubled down on his opposition to a new referendum on independence for Scotland, an ardent wish of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“Referendums in my experience, direct experience, in this country are not particularly jolly events,” Johnson said on the BBC, in a reference to the deep division caused by the 2016 referendum on Brexit, which the “Leave” camp won with 52% of the vote.
In 1975, British voters were consulted on whether their country should remain in the EEC and, according to Johnson, 41 years seemed “to be about the right sort of gap”. For the conservative leader, referendums “should be only once in a generation.”
His remarks came one day after First Minister Sturgeon said she hoped Scotland could become independent and be able to “rejoin” the European Union. She stressed that the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU was done against the will of Scotland’s people.
While 51.9% of British voters had opted for Brexit at the 2016 referendum, 62% of the Scottish electorate had opposed the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
On Saturday, Sturgeon repeated earlier calls for a new referendum on independence for Scotland, after the one her camp lost in 2014, when 55% of Scottish voters said “No” to independence.
“We didn’t want to leave” the EU “and we hope to join you again soon as an equal partner,” she said on the website of her party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), which is in favour of independence.
According to the latest opinion poll on the issue, conducted in mid-December by the Savanta ComRes Institute for The Scotsman daily, an unprecedented 58% of the Scottish population now support independence.
Any decision to organise a referendum would have to be taken by Johnson, who is strongly opposed to it. However, an overwhelming win for the SNP at next May’s local government elections would place increased pressure on London to accept a new consultation.