CAMBUSLANG, Scotland — It was gloomy inside the Ritz Bar, an establishment that doesn’t quite live up to its name, in the Scottish Rust Belt. Not just because it was so dark, but because the men drinking pints and chewing over the world’s problems were not finding easy answers.
The ones who voted last month, along with the rest of Scotland, for Britain to remain in the European Union were unhappy. And so were most of those who voted with the majority of the United Kingdom to leave the E.U., given the turmoil that has unfolded.
“We can make a point for staying, and we can make a point for leaving,” said Patrick Martin, whose family has run this bar — which sells a beer called Tartan Special on tap — for 60 years. The flags of European countries were hanging over the bar because of soccer, not politics.
Cambuslang, a town outside Glasgow, has seen better days. There used to be a Hoover vacuum cleaner factory here, a major employer, but it closed in 2003. The Ravenscraig steel mill in nearby Motherwell went the same way a decade before.
On Main Street, there are a disproportionate number of bars and betting agencies, not to mention “to let” signs in the windows of empty shops. The curry joint also sells pizza. It pays to take your coat even in July.
“If we don’t have Europe, who have we got? Nowadays it’s better to be together rather than apart,” said Martin, who voted to remain in the E.U., before lamenting the prospect of poorer nations such as Albania and Turkey joining the bloc. “Who’s going to carry all these countries who canny pay the rent?”
Such are the contradictions swirling around Scotland after the unexpected result in last month’s referendum. While Britain as a whole voted 52 to 48 percent to leave the E.U., Scotland voted by an overwhelming 62 percent to remain, with every region voting “in.”
Although the region that encompasses Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, has endured the same kind of industrial decline that has plagued other parts of the U.K., sentiment toward the E.U. here is different. Similar towns in northern England voted by large margins to leave the E.U., but South Lanarkshire did not.
In England, many feel put upon by the free movement of people that comes with E.U. membership. Immigrants from poorer parts of Europe are coming in and taking jobs, the refrain goes. Although some of that sentiment exists here, Scotland hasn’t seen anything close to the same levels of immigration.
The mismatch between Scotland’s and England’s wishes when it comes to the E.U. has reignited talk about Scottish independence, just two years after a “once in a generation” vote in which 55 percent of Scots elected to remain in the U.K.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the ascendant Scottish National Party, has been making a case that Scotland is being dragged out of the E.U. against its will. She says a second independence referendum is now “highly likely.”
But analysts say not so fast.
There are three factors that politicians must take into consideration, said John Curtice, a professor of political science at the University of Strathclyde.
First: public opinion. Sturgeon said last year that she would not hold another referendum until support for Scottish independence was at 60 percent. Polls taken since the Brexit vote have put support in the mid-50s.
“If there is going to be another referendum, there has to be clear and consistent evidence that people will vote in favor of independence,” Curtice said.
Second: whether the British Parliament grants Scotland the legal authority to hold another referendum.
Third: the attitude of the E.U. Would Brussels tell Scotland to go to the back of the membership line? Or would it regard Scotland as a continuing member of the bloc, even as the rest of the U.K. leaves?
“I believe with all my heart in the United Kingdom — the precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,” May said before making her first trip since becoming leader this week. “I’m coming here to show my commitment to preserving this special union that has endured for centuries.”
But sentiment in Cambuslang is broadly in favor of carving an independent path.
“We need Europe. Not just for me but for my kids,” said Jim Quinn, who works in the shipyards building British navy vessels and who voted to remain in the E.U. “We need a free market and free access to Europe,” he said. “Now if my boy wants to go abroad to work, he’s going to need a visa.”
His drinking buddy and former schoolmate James Gibb doesn’t agree.
“My business has gone down because of immigrants, aye,” said Gibb, who voted to leave the E.U. He distributes the local paper, but newcomers from the E.U., mainly from Poland, are competing with him. Yet the U.K. pleases him no more than the E.U. does, and he would vote in favor of independence in another referendum.
What happens next will largely depend on the economy.
Growth in Scotland is lower and unemployment is higher than in Britain as a whole. But Scotland benefits from disproportionately high public spending — a result of London’s efforts to tamp down Scottish nationalism in the 1970s — and Scots get special privileges such as free prescriptions and university tuition.
Also, Scotland’s trade with the rest of the U.K. is four times that of its trade with Europe; Europe is in woeful economic shape; and the migrant crisis could reemerge. That makes a choice for E.U. membership over Britain less attractive.
Industry has been in decline for decades, and the one bright spot — North Sea oil — is fading because of falling prices. That would leave an independent Scotland with an estimated annual deficit of $10 billion, according to the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy.
Businesses are nervous. Even before the E.U. vote, indicators from job listings to car sales were down.
“At the moment, no one knows what’s going to happen. That’s what makes this really quite difficult,” said Colin Borland of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland.
“Business confidence wasn’t exactly high before the vote, so while we get the details sorted out, it could fall off even more,” Borland said, noting that hiring and investment intentions have been weak for some time.
Using government data, the Scotsman newspaper estimated that Scotland could lose more than $260 million a year in European funding — from agricultural subsidies and infrastructure investment to job-training and scientific research grants — if it leaves the E.U. Scots are concerned that the central government in London won’t plug the gap.
Pauline Love, 45, who runs a charity store in Cambuslang and voted to stay in the E.U., fears what comes next.
“I felt that leaving would bring on an economic crisis, and we’ve had enough of those,” Love said. But when it comes to another independence vote, she just doesn’t know. “It’s not a decision to take lightly.”