The British prime minister was asked to share his thoughts on a potential Scotland independence vote, a hot topic in the wake of Brexit finally happening, as he spoke to the BBC on Sunday. He somewhat dodged the question, sharing his thoughts on referendums in general instead.
“The only point I would make is that referendums, [in] my… direct experience in this country, are not particularly jolly events,” Johnson stated, apparently referring to the 2016 Brexit vote and all the drama that followed, as well as Scotland’s 2014 independence vote.
Asked why it was fair to hold a referendum on EU membership and not another on Scotland’s independence, Johnson argued that the Brexit one was held decades after the 1975 vote on joining the European Economic Community (EEC), which only transformed into the full-fledged bloc of the European Union in 1993.
“The difference is we had a (European) referendum in 1975 and we then had another one in 2016,” Johnson said. “That seems to be about the right sort of gap.”
The inflammatory remarks promptly came under fire from different sides, with many taking offence at Johnson’s words one way or another. Supporters of Scotland’s independence were quite expectedly the ones who got most irked by the PM’s comments.
The most hardline ones even argued that Johnson and other ‘Englishmen’ should have no say in Scottish affairs at all.
Others hit at Johnson’s – trademark, actually – habit of not answering direct questions and veering off into other topics.
The proposed timeframe of “once in a generation” was not exactly precise either. Many users argued that such a term has never been used in any legal documents, while an actual time span of a “generation” could vary “drastically.”
The concept itself appears to stem from remarks made by then-leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) Alex Salmond, who called the Scottish independence referendum a “once in a generation opportunity” back in 2014. The politician, however, stressed that it was his personal opinion and refused to make it an official stance of his party.
Talk of Scotland’s independence has recently been reinvigorated as the UK has finally left the European Union. Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favor of staying in the EU back in 2016, with more than 60 percent of voters rejecting the Brexit idea back then. Moreover, Britain’s leadership has been accused of tricking Scotland into leaving, as staying within the EU as a part of the UK was one of the main talking points against independence back in 2014.
The SNP leader and first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has openly expressed hopes of returning to the EU in the nearest future – this time, as an independent, full-fledged member.
“For too long, successive UK governments have taken Scotland in the wrong direction, culminating in Brexit. It's no wonder so many people in Scotland have had enough,” Sturgeon said in a statement on Saturday. "We didn’t want to leave and we hope to join you again soon as an equal partner.”