GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) - Scotland’s former first minister believes the independence movement has a three-year window after Britain quits the European Union to push again for seccession, despite the Scottish National Party’s losses in an election in June.
Salmond, who is still very influential in the movement, said the independence drive could be refreshed by proposing to join the European Free Trade Association, which would give Scotland European single market membership.
The SNP lost a third of its seats in the national election, including Salmond’s own seat, in a sign of waning enthusiasm for another Scottish independence referendum after the uncertainties thrown up by Brexit.
Despite that, support for independence itself has remained at the 45 percent level it was when it was voted down in 2014 and the SNP still holds 35 of Scotland’s 59 seats in the Westminster parliament.
Salmond said Brexit was proving to be disastrous for Britain and would only end in “humiliation”. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to keep EU membership while Wales and most-populous England voted to leave at last year’s referendum, straining the ties of the four-nation United Kingdom.
“So the SNP were and are right about Brexit, but as we found out to our cost in the election just being right does not necessarily make for popularity. Nor does it absolve us of a responsibility to attempt to create order out of chaos,” he told a Business for Scotland annual dinner.
“We have 18 months of Brexit negotiations and after that perhaps a three-year period of transition to get our ducks in a row. Salmond said, in a speech peppered with jibes at the government’s Brexit talks, which have faltered in recent weeks.
He said that EFTA membership could be a prelude to full EU membership if necessary.
“We have to offer something which is doable, feasible and speedily deliverable for the European connections of an independent Scotland,” he said,
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Angus MacSwan