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Some Scots Push For Independence After Brexit Vote


The United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union answered one big question, but it created many others - among them, what will Scotland do? Scots voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, and some of them now are talking about another independence referendum that would split the U.K. and end the more than three century old union between England and Scotland.

NPR's Frank Langfitt joins us from the streets of Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city. And Frank, it's been nearly two weeks since the vote. Are people there still steamed?

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: They are, very much so. Actually, I took the train up from London, and when I was talking to older people on the train, a lot of them did vote to leave the EU. And their identity is more British. They said they're very loyal to the royal family. One woman said, I could never leave the Queen.

But when you get here and you start talking to a lot of younger people, they're very much for independence, and they're very angry about what happened. They sort of feel also that politically, they're never going to really have a strong voice as long as they're a part of a much bigger United Kingdom. And so what they're looking for is actually - they want their own Scottish independence referendum to leave, and they think that this time, if it's held, it'll pass.

SIEGEL: You say this time because the Scottish held an independence referendum in 2014 and voted against independence. What are the chances of holding a second referendum so soon after?

LANGFITT: Well, I don't think it's going to be that soon. It was interesting. Right after the EU vote, the Brexit vote, Nicola Sturgeon - she's the head of the She's the head of the Scottish National Party - she said that she thought a second referendum here on independence was highly likely. But in the last couple days, I've been talking to political analysts, and they say that the Scottish National Party, if it wants to go in this direction, they've got to go slowly and cautiously.

First of all, as you would remember back in 2014, it wasn't close. They lost by 10 percentage points. So they've got to make sure politically they win, or it's going to be a mess, a disaster for the party. Secondly, this just does not seem the right time. People are tired. You know, they had - the Scottish referendum was very draining. We just had the Brexit vote. That was exhausting. And so there was a recent poll up here in Scotland where a small majority said they would vote for independence, but they don't want to vote on it now.

SIEGEL: Scotland is its own country within the United Kingdom. It has its own history, its own heritage. Do you get the sense that people there feel that they have a vastly different identity from, say, the English?

SIEGEL: Especially young ones. You know, when I was asking them, what is the difference, they said, we have more of a communal sense - politically, more left-leaning, more of a socialist approach. And they say places like London are very, very different - of course London - one of the world's great financial capitals.

I was speaking to a guy named Jamie McDonald (ph). He's 26 years old. He works as a waiter downtown, and he says when he goes to the British capital, he just doesn't relate at all.

JAMIE MCDONALD: It's inhuman almost there among them because...

LANGFITT: Inhumane...

MCDONALD: ...People are so detached. Everybody's in their own bubble. They've got their own problems. Everybody's rushing. People bang into you. You don't say sorry. You don't speak to each other. You don't communicate, whereas often Scotland is the kind of place where you get on the bus, you get on the subway, you sat next to a stranger, you bang into somebody, you say sorry. You give them a smile.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) You have a different accent, too.

LANGFITT: You have a very different accent. You know, and that's really typical of - I found people really warm, really friendly.

SIEGEL: Yeah. Scotland's a small country, though, Frank. I mean, do the Scots really think they could make it on their own?

LANGFITT: Well, when I talk to older people, they are concerned. They talk about, you know - oil was not so long ago a significant chunk of revenue here - government revenue. That's no longer the case after the crash in oil prices. And some people I talked to who voted for independence the last time - they said they would actually vote against it this time because the idea of possibly being out of the EU and the U.K. was just a little too insecure, a little too scary.

Now of course the nationalists here - their dream is to get independence and never actually have to leave the EU. But of course all of this is going to be very tricky, and it's going to unfold over at least the next two to three years.

SIEGEL: OK, thank you, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt speaking to us from Glasgow in Scotland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.