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Boris Johnson's Pledge To Pull Out Of EU Has Renewed Calls For Independence In Scotland


Boris Johnson, the U.K.'s new prime minister, wants to yank his country out of the European Union by October 31, even with no deal. In Scotland, where most voters chose to remain in the EU, that's reigniting calls for independence. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from Glasgow.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: In his first speech as prime minister, Boris Johnson talked about the United Kingdom's unity, that the four nations of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland belong together.


PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON: The awesome foursome that are incarnated in that red, white and blue flag, who together are so much more than the sum of their parts and...

KAKISSIS: But one of those parts, Scotland, does not feel so awesome about Boris Johnson.




KAKISSIS: At the House of Commons in London last week, Scottish parliamentarian Ian Blackford made it very clear why.


IAN BLACKFORD: Scotland did not vote for Brexit. We did not vote for no deal. And we most certainly did not vote for this prime minister.

KAKISSIS: Public opinion polls in Scotland show there is now rising support for independence.

RYAN CASSIDY: I don't think things are looking good for Scotland with Boris Johnson as prime minister.

KAKISSIS: Ryan Cassidy (ph) is 27 and works at an upmarket restaurant in Glasgow.

CASSIDY: I voted for Scottish independence. And I voted to remain in the European Union.

KAKISSIS: No one was talking about Brexit when the independence referendum failed in 2014.

CASSIDY: No one saw it coming. Scotland voted overwhelmingly in support of staying in the European Union. We feel European.

KAKISSIS: Glasgow is a hyper-friendly port city known for shipbuilding and its music scene. Seagulls glide through the city. Downtown shops blare traditional songs.

I'm walking now up to this little, blue tent that says Scottish Independence Foundation. And there are some women here. And they're talking to a couple of guys in raincoats who are giving them some information on how to support Scottish independence. Tommy Egan (ph) is the foundation's campaign manager.

TOMMY EGAN: Listen. We gave the world the telephone. We gave the world the TV. So anything that says Scottish people can't govern their own affairs is living in cloud cuckoo land, I have to say.

KAKISSIS: Egan is raising money for another independence referendum, even though that might be difficult since holding one will require the British government's permission. Retired social worker Liz Thompson is already on board. At a downtown street festival, she tells me she hopes an independent Scotland can join the EU.

LIZ THOMPSON: Scotland's economy would not survive without, you know, European workers. We know that we need, you know, an injection of skills and abilities. So we're quite happy to welcome people I think.

KAKISSIS: So are Jane Churchill (ph) and Aileen O'Hagan (ph), two friends huddled under an umbrella listening to a troupe of Europeans drumming in the rain. They believe a Britain after Brexit will be insular.

JANE CHURCHILL: It feels a little bit like a bad dream coming real.

AILEEN O'HAGAN: Yeah. We've got our very own Trump, haven't we?

CHURCHILL: Yeah, yeah.

KAKISSIS: But shipyard worker Martin Malloy (ph) does not mind Boris Johnson.

MARTIN MALLOY: Let's give him a chance. He can't be any worse than the rest of them.

KAKISSIS: As if on cue, a Glaswegian folk singer starts crooning Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." Malloy voted for Brexit and says Scotland's place is in the United Kingdom.

MALLOY: Because we're stronger together as part of the union. We all have common history together. And, economically, we're going to be a better country for it.

KAKISSIS: It's a message that Boris Johnson himself is expected to take to Scotland, which he could visit as early as next week. Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Glasgow.


Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.