Scottish nationalists are pressing for a second independence referendum, which the British government has said it will block. As the Scottish National Party (SNP) starts its conference, thousands took to the streets.
Tens of thousands of people marched through Edinburgh on Saturday in support of another vote on Scottish independence.
A stream of Saltire national flags were waved through the capital and the rally was set to end with a picnic in Holyrood Park, next to the Scottish Parliament.
The organizers, All Under One Banner, had expected 30,000 would take part, based on previous rallies. But on Saturday afternoon, they claimed at least 100,000 people had turned out for the "biggest and boldest demonstration for independence in Scotland's history." The population of the Scottish capital is 480,000; the population of Scotland is 5.2 million.
The rally, one of a series organized across Scotland this summer, has been held just before the Scottish National Party (SNP) conference started on Saturday evening in Glasgow. Discussion of a referendum is not on this year's conference agenda.
The SNP is the largest party in Scotland and has opposed the UK's plans to leave the European Union. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, Scottish voters were in favor of the UK remaining in the EU by 62 to 38 percent. All 32 council areas backed the Remain campaign.
Blocking a second independence referendum
There have been calls by Scottish nationalists for a second independence referendum before the end of the Brexit transition in 2021. The UK is set to leave the bloc in March next year.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, who heads the SNP, has said that when circumstances change and there is a clear indication from voters for a second referendum, she would respond.
The Scotland Act 1998 created a Scottish Parliament with the power to make laws on some issues but did not devolve power to the Scottish Parliament to legislate and authorize an independence referendum. Sturgeon must go to the UK Government to seek an Order in Council under Section 30(2) of the act.
Conservatives and Labour oppose
However, Britain's Conservative party will block another referendum, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said.
The block on a Scottish vote would be included in the Conservatives' next election manifesto, Davidson stated, because the 2014 independence vote was to "be a once in a generation event."
In the 2014 referendum, Scots rejected independence 55 to 45 percent.
Scottish Conservatives have 13 MPs in Westminster, obtained with 28 percent of the Scottish vote, 31 of 129 seats in the Scottish parliament and one of six seats for Scotland in the European Parliament.
The Labour Party in Scotland has also said it would oppose a second independence referendum for Scotland. Scottish Labour currently have 7 MPs in Westminster, 22 seats in the Scottish Parliament and two seats in the European Parliament.
Stalled Brexit talks have fueled speculation that there is growing support for Scottish independence.
Leaving the EU under any terms would boost support for Scottish independence to 47 percent, according to a poll conducted in early September. That compares to 43 percent who would want to remain a part of the UK, with 10 percent undecided.
cw/jm (Reuters, AP)