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May's election gamble puts Scottish independence vote back on the radar

UK Prime Minister Theresa May caught the country by surprise this week when she announced she would seek an early general election on 8 June.

For May, the decision to go the polls appears mostly about strengthening support for her Brexit strategy, as the country gets down to the tough business of divorcing from the European Union.

Her decision also appears to be one that is largely about English politics, with May perhaps calculating that her Conservative Party can put the opposition Labour Party to the sword, with polls predicting she could win about 100 more seats in parliament.

However, in Scotland — whose waters hold the majority of the UK’s remaining oil production and reserves — political leaders wasted no time in suggesting they would use the upcoming vote as an opportunity to bolster a mandate to hold a second referendum on independence from the UK, known as IndyRef2. "In terms of Scotland, this move is a huge political miscalculation by the prime minister," claimed Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, also leader of the Scottish National Party.

"It will once again give people the opportunity to reject the (Conservative government's) narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future."

Scotland voted against independence in 2014 but, when the UK voted as a whole last June to exit the EU, Scots voted to remain. For this reason, Sturgeon says a new referendum is needed to avoid Scotland being forced out of the bloc against its will.

However, May has refused to countenance talks on a second referendum while the outcome of the Brexit talks is unclear.

Many industry executives working in the UK will say privately that Brexit holds relatively few concerns for them.

What is a worry, they say, is the possibility that Scotland will break away from the 300-year-old union with England.

It is for that reason they will be watching the outcome of this surprise general election with even more attention than usual.