STIRLING • Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched a new independence drive yesterday, urging supporters to join the country's "biggest-ever political listening exercise" to gauge public appetite for a new referendum.
Two years after Scots voted by 10 percentage points to reject independence, Ms Sturgeon told her Scottish National Party (SNP) that Britain's vote to leave the European Union (EU) had radically changed the debate.
"This summer, we witnessed seismic changes, which will have a deep impact on our ambition for this country," Ms Sturgeon told an SNP gathering in Stirling. "The UK that existed before June 23 has fundamentally changed."
The prospect of a long period of Conservative rule in Westminster - the main opposition Labour Party is currently embroiled in a bitter leadership battle and well behind the governing Conservatives in opinion polls - meant a new debate on Scotland's future was needed, she said.
"To ensure that the voice of everyone in Scotland is heard in these changed times, I am today launching Scotland's biggest-ever political listening exercise," Ms Sturgeon said. "The debate must include an examination of independence."
She said the survey would be conducted through a website and by polling party members, aiming to reach two million people, or around half the electorate.
The results are due by St Andrew's Day on Nov 30 - celebrating Scotland's patron saint.
Scotland voted by 62 per cent to 38 per cent to remain in the EU in the June 23 Brexit referendum, putting it at odds with Britain as a whole which voted to leave.
SNP says EU membership was a key factor in Scottish voters' decision to remain a part of Britain.
SNP will deploy its 120,000 party members to ask voters door-to-door how they feel, and what could be done differently to win a future vote on independence.
Addressing British Prime Minister Theresa May, Ms Sturgeon said: "You do not have a clear mandate to take any part of the UK out of the single market" of the European Union.
Mrs May has spoken out against Scottish independence and promised to involve Scotland in negotiations on Britain's future relationship with the EU.
Despite the "no" to independence in 2014, the campaign galvanised SNP, which now has 56 of the 59 seats allocated to Scotland in the British Parliament in London.
A YouGov poll published a week after the Brexit vote however showed most Scots still wanted to remain a part of Britain, by 53 per cent to 47 per cent.
A YouGov poll in the Times newspaper yesterday put support for remaining at 54 per cent to 46 per cent.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE