In a 2014 referendum on whether Scotland should break away to become Europe’s newest nation state, Scots voted to stay in the three-centuries-old union with England and Wales by 55% to 45%. Rather than settling the matter, though, the separatists gathered in strength and numbers. They became key political power brokers by winning most of Scotland’s seats in the UK Parliament. Now they’re laying the ground for another vote, even though the government in London has refused to allow one, and the push for an independent Scotland shows no sign of going away.
Scotland and England united to form Great Britain in 1707, but the two nations retain a host of cultural and political differences. With about 5.5 million people, Scotland makes up about 8% of the UK’s population and its economy. Many Scots see rule from London as a fundamental lack of self-determination. The distinctions go beyond kilts and bagpipes: Scotland has its own legal and education systems, soccer league and bank notes. The Scottish National Party, which is spearheading the independence drive, also wants to remove Britain’s nuclear weapons from a deep sea loch in western Scotland.