First Minister in Scots poll warning
Sturgeon: quitting EU would make IndyRef2 ‘unstoppable’
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today that if Britain voted to leave the EU it would produce an angry backlash in Scotland and “a clamour for another independence referendum which may well be unstoppable.”
Ms Sturgeon, who last week said she was not currently campaigning for a second referendum, told an audience in Brussels that a vote to leave the EU would make a second poll on Scotland’s future in the UK almost certain.
She repeated her call for a “double majority” process whereby the UK could only leave the EU if each nation of the UK voted that way.
“If Scotland were to be taken out of Europe, despite voting as a nation to have remained, it would provoke a strong backlash among many ordinary voters in Scotland,” she said.
“Quite what the result of that would be, no one knows. But I have stated before that this could be one scenario producing the kind of material change in circumstances which would precipitate popular demand for a second independence referendum.
“Bluntly, I believe the groundswell of anger among ordinary people in Scotland in these circumstances could produce a clamour for another independence referendum which may well be unstoppable.
“Of course, it is open to the UK government to stop that happening, by agreeing to the ‘double majority’ provision I referred to earlier.”
The UK, she noted, is a multinational state. “Surely, therefore, none of the nations that make up the UK should be at risk of being forced out of the EU against their will.
“That is why we are arguing for a “double majority” provision – where the UK can only leave the EU, if each nation of the UK votes to leave. That sort of territorial requirement is used in some federal states such as Canada or Australia. It’s time to apply it to the UK as well.
“The equal status of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales should be reflected in the reality of legislation, as well as the rhetoric of campaigning.”
In a speech welcoming the benefits of EU membership, Ms Sturgeon told an audience of politicians and bureaucrats at the European Policy Centre that she and the Scottish government wanted to reform the EU, but did not want to leave it.
“I believe unequivocally that membership of Europe is in Scotland’s best interests. That’s a belief I’ve held for all of my adult life. It is shared by my party. And in fact it is a very widely held view across the entire spectrum of the Scottish Parliament,” she said.
“There is nothing contradictory about independent countries recognising their interdependence and choosing to pool some sovereignty for mutual advantage – on the contrary, it is the way of the modern world.
“And as part of that, I think we’re essentially comfortable with the idea of overlapping identities. We know that you can be Scottish and British, Scottish and European, Scottish and Polish or Scottish and Pakistani.”
She also took issue with the UK government’s proposal to scrap the Human Rights Act.
“Scotland’s commitment to the EU is matched by a commitment to the European Convention of Human Rights,” said the First Minister.
“The Convention is one of the finest and most important achievements of the post-war era in Europe. UK politicians and UK lawyers were fundamental to its creation. In fact, much of the Convention was drafted by David Maxwell Fyfe – a Scottish lawyer and Conservative politician.
“I think it defies belief that any Government could even consider trying to distance the UK from the Convention. And I want to make it clear today that the Scottish Government’s belief in European co-operation includes a firm belief in the principles of the ECHR. Our opposition to any proposals which weaken its protections will be robust and unequivocal.”
Ms Sturgeon argued that 16 and 17 year old should be given the right to vote in the EU referendum. “The case for letting them vote in the EU referendum is overwhelming,” she said. She also took issue with plans to impose restrictions on those Britons living abroad.
“It is incomprehensible to us, for the EU referendum, that the UK Government is proposing to grant the right to vote to the citizens of three other EU countries – Ireland, Malta and Cyprus – but not the remaining 24. Denying them a say, on an issue which affects them so directly, is unfair, undemocratic and unjustifiable.”