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Scotland would seek independence referendum if Britain votes to leave EU: Sturgeon

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LONDON (Reuters) - If Britain votes in a June referendum to leave the European Union against the wishes of Scotland then pressure would rise for a second independence referendum, the nationalist leader of Scotland said on Saturday.

Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party and of Scotland’s devolved government, said she supports staying in the EU, and polls show that a majority of the 5 million Scots would also back that view.

However, the Scottish vote is dwarfed by that of England which has 53 million and represents about 84 percent of the population of the United Kingdom.

“Across the UK the polls suggest this campaign is on a knife-edge and that’s why I think it’s important for the in-campaign to be positive,” Sturgeon said.

“If we get into the situation, where Scotland votes to stay in, the rest of the UK votes to come out, then people in Scotland will have big questions they will want to look at again about whether Scotland should be independent.”

Scots rejected independence by 55-45 percent in a vote in 2014 but since then the SNP has gained further strength, taking 56 of the 59 seats representing Scotland in the national parliament in London in last May’s election.

Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday called a June 23 referendum on membership of the EU after securing a deal from other EU leaders.

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond said he did not rate the EU deal that Cameron had secured.

If “we were dragged out against our will by the votes of a much larger English (electorate), then the pressure for another independence referendum in Scotland would be irresistible and I think very rapid,” Salmond said.

Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa; editing by Guy Faulconbridge