EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Many voters in the historic city of Edinburgh seemed indifferent — and even hostile — Tuesday to plans for a second referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.
The Scottish national flag flutters high above the city’s 16th century tenements, but few residents were clamoring for a break with the U.K. despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s call a day earlier for a fresh vote on Scotland’s future.
Sturgeon wants to hold the vote in late 2018 or early 2019, just as Britain plans to conclude delicate negotiations on leaving the European Union.
“Sturgeon is holding Britain to ransom by demanding a referendum at this stage when we are trying to negotiate Brexit,” Robin MacLean, a 66-year-old museum curator, said. He said her Scottish National Party had reneged on its pledge that the 2014 referendum would be a “once in a generation” event.
“It is a stab in the back and a very cowardly act,” MacLean said.
Edinburgh was firmly against separation, with 61 percent of the city’s voters opting to remain in the U.K. during the first Scottish independence referendum. Overall, 55 percent of Scottish voters said no to independence. They also voted against taking Britain out of the EU in the Brexit referendum held last year.
Despite a variety of polls suggesting support for independence has risen since then, loyalty to the union still seems prevalent in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital.
Retired information technology manager Peter Watson, 70, said Scottish nationalists were using Brexit as an excuse for a bogus second try after losing the first independence test.
“If they were honest and said they wanted independence because they just don’t like the English, I would have a great deal more respect for them,” Watson said. “If they want to jump out of the U.K. now, they will be left on their own, they will not be part of the EU and they will not be part of the U.K.”
Sturgeon has described the move as the only way to protect Scottish interests, since Britain is leaving the EU despite Scotland’s desire to remain part of the EU bloc.
But many voters said they were reluctant to go through another campaign. The 2014 referendum was blamed for tearing families and friendships apart.
“I don’t want there to be a second referendum, not right now anyway,” said Sophie Newbould, a part-time shop worker and student. “We are already going through massive changes as a country leaving the EU.”
However, Newbould said the prospect of Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will could persuade her to change mind.
“I am willing to be persuaded,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the best time for another referendum, but if there was a good argument for independence, I might vote yes.”