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Anger over Brexit sparks new grassroots drive for Scottish independence

Supporters of an independent Scotland will launch a new grassroots campaign on Thursday ahead of a possible second referendum on secession from the United Kingdom, hoping to harness Scottish voters' anger over Brexit.

Country will start preparing for 2nd referendum before May 2021, says minister

Pro-Scottish independence supporters with Scottish Saltire flag masks are seen at a rally in George Square in Glasgow, Scotland, on July 30, 2016, to call for Scottish independence from the U.K. A new initiative to boost support for secession kicks off Thursday. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters of an independent Scotland will launch a new grassroots campaign on Thursday ahead of a possible second referendum on secession from the United Kingdom, hoping to harness Scottish voters' anger over Brexit.

Scots rejected independence in 2014 and support since then has remained stuck at around 45 per cent, opinion polls suggest. But Scots also voted to remain in the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, in which England and Wales voted to leave.

Under the crowd-funded initiative Voices for Scotland, which has some 100,000 supporters, clipboard-wielding activists will fan out across Scotland to try to boost support for secession to the 50-60 per cent range.

"I get the sense that we are in the death throes of the United Kingdom, that it is a very unstable construct," Maggie Chapman, one of the leaders of Voices for Scotland and also co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, told Reuters.

The launch comes a day after Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the country would start preparing for a second referendum on independence before May 2021, without permission from London, because of Brexit.

Britain is mired in political chaos after Parliament rejected three times the withdrawal deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and other EU leaders. It is still unclear when, or even if, it will leave the bloc.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks in the Scottish Parliament during continued Brexit uncertainty in Edinburgh on Wednesday. (Russell Cheyne/Reuters)

'The U.K. is not OK'

"One of the things that 'no' or undecided voters said to me in 2014, in the run-up to that referendum [on Scottish independence], was 'Why, what do you want to change, the UK is fine as it is,'" said Chapman.

"Brexit tells us that the U.K. is not OK, not only in terms of economic legitimacy and power, but in terms of trust in politics."

Scotland's "Yes" movement took support for independence to 45 per cent in 2014, from around 23 per cent in 2012.

A demonstrator wraps a flag around herself to shelter her from the rain while taking part in a march in support of Scottish independence in Glasgow on June 3, 2017. (Russell Cheyne/Reuters)

The new initiative will train campaigners to go out and "listen to what people need to help them become supportive of independence, as well as to persuade them of its merits," Voices for Scotland said in a statement.

It has so far raised about £100,000 (approximately $174,151 Cdn) to train and support campaigners to spread the word on "every street in Scotland," Chapman said.

Its aim is particularly to target those who are undecided about Scottish independence or "who support the union but have had their faith undermined by recent events."

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