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Scottish First MinisterFormer First Minister and Scottish National party leader Alex Salmond said he believes Scotland must now stage a second independence referendum before the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) is effected within the next two years.

Britan on Thursday voted narrowly — 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent — to exit the EU.

Salmond said on Friday the Brexit vote, despite a large majority in Scotland in favour of the EU, is a material change in Scotland’s constitutional position.

Salmond told BBC Radio Scotland: “This changes the whole context of Scottish independence”.

He said his successor, Nicola Sturgeon, now had to implement her manifesto pledge to call for a second referendum if there was “a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”.

“I’m quite certain that Nicola will start to implement that manifesto.”

His intervention implies that he expects Sturgeon to press for a quick second poll.

She has been hesitant on the case for an immediate referendum because there is no clear or substantial support for it in recent opinion polls.

Sturgeon is due to make a statement in Edinburgh later on Friday. While insisting that her government is given a direct role in the UK government’s negotiations with the EU on exiting, the first minister could also demand that Westminster gives Holyrood the legal authority to stage a second referendum if it wants to.

Scotland held a referendum in September 2014 where voters were asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?”.

The “No” side won, with 55.3 per cent voting against independence and 44.7 per cent voting in favour.