European migrants could change the outcome of any future referendum on Scottish independence if its held before Brexit, say experts.
Two academics have re-ignited the indyref2 debate by suggesting the substantial number of European Union (EU) nationals living in Scotland would side with the Yes camp if a second poll was held before the UK exits the EU in March 2019.
Economist Richard Marsh and Dr Fabian Zuleeg, the chief executive of the European Policy Centre, believe that EU nationals could have a significant impact on the result of what is seen as a tightly contested, highly devisive vote.
In an essay for the Scottish Centre On European Relatons think-tank, Mr Marsh and Dr Zuleeg predicted that the number of Europeans in Scotland in 2020 would be enough to achieve a Yes vote if nothing else changed from 2014.
They wrote: “If all EU citizens vote Yes to independence, it could have a significant impact: if the 2020 projected number of EU citizens were assumed to have unanimously moved from the No to the Yes cohort in the 2014 referendum, it would have been just enough to switch the result, resulting in a 51 per cent Yes vote.”
They admitted that it was hard to determine how many European nationals would remain in Scotland after Brexit to vote in the independence referendum.
In 2014, Europeans were less likely than the national average to vote in favour of Scottish independence, with under 43 per cent for and 57 against.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that she intends to delay the vote she proposed to be held shortly before the UK left the EU, instead focusing on a relaunch of her government following a disappointing general election result.
It is likely to be held after the Brexit process is complete, having abandoned legislation on a second referendum in June.
This delay could disenfranchise European voters if Brexit changes their voting rights post-2019.