Thousands gather in Aberdeen to demand break from UK

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LONDON, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) — Around 12,000 people marched through Aberdeen on Saturday as part of a campaign to seek Scotland’s freedom from the United Kingdom.

The march came just days after Professor Michael Keating, chair in Scottish politics at the University of Aberdeen, said Scotland may be approaching a “tipping point.”

In a 2014 referendum, people voted by a 55-45 margin against Scotland becoming an independent country. It was described as a once-in-a-generation vote.

In the 2016 European Union (EU) referendum, people across Britain voted by a margin of 52-48 to leave the bloc, but in Scotland the vote was 62 to 38 in favor of staying in the EU.

Keating told Xinhua that attitudes in Scotland towards independence from London were changing very slowly.

Political commentators and some politicians in Scotland, particularly from the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) say the prospect of Britain leaving the EU in October with no-deal has reignited the independence debate north of Hadrian’s Wall.

According to the new poll, 47 percent of respondents in Scotland now want another independence referendum, with 45 percent disagreeing.

If a second poll were held, 46 percent would vote Yes to independence, and 43 percent would say No.

Prof. John Curtice from Scotland’s Strathclyde university who is UK’s foremost poll analyst, said the latest survey is further evidence that seemingly the race has narrowed.

“The figures reflect exactly what voters said they would do if Boris Johnson became prime minister and if the UK crashed out of Europe. One of those things has happened, and the other is coming into view,” Curtice said.

SNP politician Gillian Martin, who represents Aberdeenshire East at Holyrood, said she had detected a shift in mood among her constituents.

Martin said in a media interview: “Everyone I know knows someone who’s changed their mind from No to Yes. Of course, not everyone is champing at the bit to have another referendum – people are weary of the amount of times they’ve been asked to go to the ballot box in the past few years.

“There’s still a nervousness about independence. But Aberdeenshire is a bellwether. If we could get past 50 percent here, there would be a landslide across Scotland.”

A no-deal Brexit, he added, would spark a chain reaction.

Meanwhile, the march in Aberdeen, organised by All Under One Banner (AUOB), a Scottish independence pressure group established five years ago to press independence, was the latest in a rolling program of events.

Backed by the local pro-independence group, Aye Aberdeen, AUOB said it was the biggest ever demonstration in favor of independence Aberdeen.

AUOB founder Neil Mackay said it was also a curtain raiser to what is expected to be the biggest march of the year in October when the campaign will be taken to the front door of Scotland’s parliament, with a major event in Edinburgh.

“The event in Aberdeen has been tremendous, with a really good turnout of at least 12,000 people,” Mackay told Xinhua.

“I’d like to see a new referendum in August of next year, or at least the following August. We want to grab the moment.”

Many of the marchers Saturday waved banners with the word “Yes”, signalling their support for independence.

There was a small counter demonstration by pro-union supporters wanting Scotland to remain as part of the UK.

Earlier this week, a report in the London-based Observer newspaper quoted a 2017 report by the Center for Cities thinktank, concluding that Aberdeen would be British city most adversely affected by Brexit, especially a hard exit.

That report was echoed in a recent study by the Scottish government, which said 25 percent of the workforce around Abderdeen was employed in sectors most exposed in a no-deal Brexit, especially farming and fisheries.

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