First Minister sets out terms
Sturgeon: ‘stability may depend on independence’
First Minister sets out case for EU membership
Nicola Sturgeon today said that Scottish independence may be the best way of avoiding the “uncertainty, upheaval and unpredictability” created by the decision of the UK to leave the European Union.
Ms Sturgeon told an audience of business, academic and voluntary service leaders that protecting Scotland’s interests, not independence, was her starting point in negotiations over Europe.
She said she was equally clear that “if we find that our interests can’t be protected in a UK context, independence must be one of those options and Scotland must have the right to consider that option.”
She defended the right to hold a second referendum on the grounds that the UK that Scotland voted to remain part of in 2014 is “fundamentally changing” because of the Brexit vote.
“The outlook for the UK is uncertainty, upheaval and unpredictability. In these circumstances it may well be the option that may offer us the greatest certainty, stability and maximum control over our own destiny is that of independence,” she said.
Her address to the Institute of Public Policy Research set down the broad terms for negotiations with Westminster on retaining links with the EU following the Brexit vote.
Setting out her government’s determination to maintain free trade, free movement of labour and the rights afforded to workers and citizens, she attacked those who had “lied” and been “foolish” and “reckless” in campaigning against membership of the EU.
Scotland voted 62% to 38% in favour of staying in the EU and Ms Sturgeon argued that leaving would be a denial of the democratic will of the people.
“I felt and continue to feel contempt for a Leave campaign that had lied and given succour to the racism and intolerance of the far right.”
She acknowledged that a million voters in Scotland backed the Leave campaign, and that she had to respond to those concerns.
She also accepted that the EU was not perfect, but she accused critics of focusing on its faults, not the benefits it brings.
Reflecting on how she felt on the morning after the EU referendum, she said: “I felt and continue to feel contempt for a Leave campaign that had lied and given succour to the racism and intolerance of the far right.”
Criticising Mr Cameron for holding the referendum, she said: “I felt frustration at the political irresponsibility that had brought us to that point.”
She said it was one thing to hold a referendum when you oppose change, but to do so “only to appease UKIP and the eurosceptics in his party was another matter. That was, in my view, reckless.”
“It was one of the most shameful abdications of responsibility in modern political history.”
She added that she felt a need to share the responsibility, as a member of the Remain side, for the failure of the campaign. In a climate of uncertainty that followed the vote it was necessary for politicians to “create order out of the chaos”.
She said: “I was wrong about that. Indeed, the absence of any leadership and the lack of any advance planning, both from those who proposed the referendum and those who campaigned for a Leave vote, surely must count as one of the most shameful abdications of responsibility in modern political history.”
She said it was “tactically foolish” to deny EU nationals and 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote as they would have been among those most in favour of remaining.
While accepting immigration was a factor for those who voted Leave, she said many were voting against austerity and a feeling of exclusion from the system. As an early response, she said politicians could tackle these issues and could start by abandoning the austerity agenda.
This would put question marks over commitments, including promises of more spending on public services.
She said she wanted to retain the rights afforded by EU membership in such areas as discrimination and workers’ rights. She feared the UK government, outside the EU, “would seek economic competitiveness through deregulation and a race to the bottom. It would devastating for the rights we have come to take for granted.”
Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “Two million Scots agreed in 2014, leaving the United Kingdom is not in Scotland’s interests, and the Scottish Government should therefore end its flirtation with yet another divisive referendum on independence.
“Its focus as we enter this crucial period should instead be to work with the UK government to get the right deal for families and firms across Scotland.”
> Oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood has urged Nicola Sturgeon not to call a second independence referendum.
The businessman said Scotland would face a lengthy and uncertain process to join the EU as a member state in its own right and, even then, would enjoy “very little influence” in Brussels.