Second indyref '˜could take place in May 2018'

A second referendum on Scottish independence is likely to be called by Nicola Sturgeon in a year's time and could take place as early as May 2018, the former chief executive of the Yes campaign has predicted.

Blair Jenkins, who led Yes Scotland during the last independence campaign. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Blair Jenkins, who led Yes Scotland during the last independence campaign. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Blair Jenkins, who led the grassroots drive for Scottish independence ahead of 2014’s referendum, told i he believed another vote on the country’s future was all but inevitable due to the Brexit vote, and would take place before the UK formally left the EU.

Despite a series of polls showing no big increase in support for independence following the Brexit vote, Mr Jenkins said the next Yes campaign would start on a much higher level of support, making a majority in favour of leaving the UK “highly likely” when it came to polling day.

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When Mr Jenkins was named chief executive of Yes Scotland in 2012 support for independence stood at around 35 per cent, but when the day of the referendum arrived in 2014, 45 per cent of Scots voted in favour.

He suggested that Ms Sturgeon, who has stated that another referendum is ‘highly likely’ given that a majority of Scots backed remaining in the EU, did not want to call another one prematurely and was waiting until the terms of the Brexit deal became clearer.

Mr Jenkins said: “Nicola Sturgeon couldn’t call an independence referendum until after Article 50 has been triggered.

“You couldn’t call a referendum, I think, without having some idea of what Scotland’s position will be in relation to the European Union,” he added.

“I would have thought that if Article 50 was triggered by the UK in the first quarter of next year, the broad outline of what the Brexit deal is likely to be will be apparent by the autumn.

“In my own mind, that would look like the earliest time at which the First Minister is likely to announce a second referendum.”

He added that the campaign ahead of the next referendum would be “much shorter and tighter” as the key parliamentary and legal processes had already been agreed in 2014, such as the inclusion of 16 and 17-year-olds in the electorate.

“If she were announcing in say September or October next year, then you’d need six to nine months [for a campaign], so I imagine you’d then be looking at May or June 2018 as the earliest possible date,” he added. Responding to Mr Jenkins’ comments, an SNP spokesman said: “In light of the overwhelming vote to remain in the EU, it is right that the Scottish Government explores every option to protect our relationship with and place in the EU – including the option of another independence referendum if it becomes clear that is the best or only way to do so.

“The UK that Scotland voted to remain part of in 2014 will soon no longer exist.

“The complete lack of planning by the UK Government for this referendum outcome has created tremendous uncertainty for business, for investors, for EU citizens living in the UK and for our public services and there are growing concerns over the plans of an increasingly right-wing Tory UK government.

“In that context, it is little wonder that more and more people are seeing independence as the option that offers the greatest certainty and stability.”