The British were fully warned before they voted to quit the European Union that this also risked a breakup of the United Kingdom. When a majority of Scots voted against breaking with Britain in 2014, they were not then voting to break with the European Union and their preference for staying in the union was firmly confirmed when 62 percent voted against Brexit in the referendum in June 2016. So the call by Nicola Sturgeon, head of the Scottish National Party and first minister of Scotland, for another Scottish referendum on independence should come as no surprise to Westminster. Ms. Sturgeon's call may be understandable, but another plebiscite before Britain concludes the Brexit process would not be prudent. Prime Minister Theresa May says that the Scots need to wait until the complex negotiations with the union are concluded to make a reasoned judgment on what Scotland has to gain or lose from going it alone.
Mrs. May is expected to invoke the European Union's Article 50, which starts a two-year clock ticking for Britain's exit, before the end of the month. Negotiations will determine the relations Britain will have with the Continent after the formal parting. Ms. Sturgeon, who heads a minority government in Scotland, would like an independence referendum sometime in the last months of negotiations, evidently on the belief that Scottish voters would be more likely to vote for breaking with Britain is expected to seek the backing of the Scottish Parliament next week. But calling a referendum to take advantage of anticipated confusion is foolish. David Cameron, the British prime minister at the time, called for the 2016 referendum on European Union membership on the presumption that voters would opt to stay in. The opposite happened, forcing Britain and Europe into a divorce that is proving painful for both.
Under Britain's arrangement with Scotland, the British Parliament must approve holding any referendum in Scotland, so Mrs. May's government has the power to block one. Her pledge to reject it prompted predictable denunciations from Scottish nationalists; Ms. Sturgeon called it a "democratic outrage." It's hard to say if a vote on independence would succeed. Although 62 percent of Scottish voters voted to stay in the European Union, that may not translate into a vote to break with Britain after Brexit. Many of the same economic and political arguments against independence that were advanced in 2014 remain true today. It might not be easy for an independent Scotland to join the European Union or to maintain an open border with Britain. Scotland should have the right to reconsider its future now that Britain has opted to break with the EU. But until the Brexit negotiations end, it would be difficult for voters to make an informed decision.
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