A Disunited Kingdom? Welsh and Scottish independence on political agenda ahead of Brexit referendum

Campaign seeking to emulate Catalan and Scottish experiences launched in Wales · Nicola Sturgeon says second independence referendum would be almost unavoidable if UK votes to leave the EU

Yes Cymru's launch.
Yes Cymru's launch. Author: Yes Cymru
Shortly after prime minister David Cameron announced the date of the referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU -June 23rd 2016-, voices in favour in Welsh and Scottish independence were being raised again. In Wales, Yes Cymru -which aims to be the first-ever massive pro-independence campaign there- was launched Saturday 20th. In Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said Brexit would almost certainly trigger a second referendum on secession.

Yes Cymru's presentation took place in Cardiff, significantly with speeches by Scotland's Women for Independence group founder Shona McAlpine, and by Liz Castro, one of the leading members of pro-independence civil society group Catalan National Assembly. That is no coincidence, as Yes Cymru sees Scotland and Catalonia as two pro-independence beacons in Western Europe. Group leader Iestyn ap Rhobert says "there has never been an independence campaign in Wales, and the case has never been made. We aim to rectify that."

Yes Cymru argues that small countries perform economically better than big ones, but UK economic policies have hindered Wales's development. The group warns that an eventual Brexit could leave Wales outside the European club.

Still, Yes Cymru will have some work to do. Opinion polls suggest that support for independence lies between 5% and 10% of the Welsh population. The main pro-independence party, Plaid Cymru, is focused on achieving increased self-government within the UK rather than pushing for short term independence.

Second referendum on independence after Brexit?

Further north, Nicola Sturgeon was interviewed by the BBC after Cameron had set the date for the UK referendum on continued EU membership. Sturgeon predicted that a very strong social pressure for a second referendum on independence would emerge in Scotland if England votes for leaving the EU while Scotland votes for remaining.

Sturgeon, however, also said she "hopes" that this scenario will not occur and the UK as a whole will vote for staying in the EU.

Almost all February polls predict that a majority of UK voters will reject Brexit, although some surveys show that the "yes"-"no" gap is smaller than the number of don't-knows. A clear "yes" victory to remain in the EU would leave Scottish pro-independence campaigners without one of their favorite arguments since Scottish voters rejected independence from the UK in 2014.

Cameron announced the Brexit referendum date on Saturday 20th after the EU agreed to grant the UK a special status. The deal signals that the UK "is not committed to further political integration into the European Union," and agrees that the UK introduces 7-year limitations to welfare benefits for non-UK workers. Following the agreement, Cameron announced he will campaign in favour of remaining in the EU.