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Leader to 'stand up for Scotland'

SNP to oppose Brexit bill as Sturgeon raises indy stakes

nicola-sturgeon-snp16Nicola Sturgeon today tore into the “xenophobic” Tory party and indicated that she would demand another vote on independence if Scotland was “denied the chance to create a better future”.

In a no-bolds barred attack on the UK government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations the SNP leader told party delegates at its annual conference that the right of the Tory party was now in charge and dictating policy.

She confirmed that SNP MPs would vote against the “Great Repeal Bill” which took Britain into the European Community in 1973 and would seek a coalition with other parties to oppose a “hard Brexit” that would deny the UK entry to the single market.

She confirmed that an independence consultation paper will be published next week.

“Last week, we saw the Tories adopt UKIP policy and Farage-style rhetoric – lock, stock and beer-barrel,” she said.

“It was a disgrace. It shames the Tory party and all who speak for it.

“But make no mistake – the right wing of the Tory party is now in the ascendancy and it is seeking to hijack the referendum result.

“Brexit has become Tory Brexit.

“The rampant right wing of the party are using it as licence for the xenophobia that has long lain under the surface – but which is now in full, unlovely view.

“They are using the result as cover for a hard Brexit for which they have no mandate – but which they are determined to impose, regardless of the ruinous consequences. 

“Worse still, they intend to do all of this with no parliamentary authority. Virtually no scrutiny whatsoever.

“And to do it with complete disregard for Scotland’s democratic voice. That is simply not acceptable.”

Ms Sturgeon, arguing that Scotland was in danger of being denied its democratic voice in the Brexit talks, turned her ire on Prime Minister Theresa May, accusing her of disrespecting Scottish voters.

Theresa May at Bute House
Theresa May at Bute House

“Last week, the Prime Minister told us that how important it was to respect the democratic mandate of the people. I agree.

“Which is why I say this to her today – it’s high time you showed some respect for the 62% of people across Scotland who voted to Remain.

“Of course, I know that one million of our fellow citizens voted to Leave. They did so for a range of legitimate reasons and as First Minister, I have a duty to listen to, to understand and to respond to these reasons.

“But I suspect that many of those who voted to Leave, look now at the actions and rhetoric of the Tories and think ‘that’s not what I voted for’.

“They may have voted to take back control.

“But I can’t imagine many of them voted to hand control to the unholy trinity of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.

“Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox – three men in a Brexit boat who haven’t got a paddle between them.

“No, I don’t believe people voted for that.”

“They didn’t vote to throw economic rationality out of the window. 

“They didn’t vote to lower their own living standards or to sacrifice jobs and investment. 

“They didn’t vote for our businesses to face tariffs or for holiday-makers to need visas. 

“They didn’t vote for the scapegoating of foreigners. 

“And they didn’t vote for the voice of Scotland’s people and our parliament to be ignored. 

“Yet all of these are clear and present dangers: all of that will happen unless we fight against it. 

“And we will.”

Nicola Sturgeon addresses a packed Glasgow conference hall
Nicola Sturgeon addresses a packed Glasgow conference hall

Ms Sturgeon said there there is “no doubt that Brexit is a defining issue of our time – for Scotland and for the UK.

“It looms over everything. How could it not, given the implications for our economy, our society, our security and our place in the world?”

She added: “I can confirm today that SNP MPs will vote against the Brexit Bill when it come before the House of Commons next year.

“That Bill will repeal the legislation that enacted our EU membership. Scotland didn’t vote for that and so neither will our MPs.

“But we will also work to persuade others – Labour, Liberals and moderate Tories – to join us in a coalition against a hard Brexit: not just for Scotland, but for the whole UK.

“We know that Brexit will damage our economy. 

“Hard Brexit – removal, not just from the EU, but from the single market as well – will be disastrous.

“The Treasury estimates that the cost to the UK economy could be £66 billion. 

“Here in Scotland 80,000 jobs could be lost. Wages would be hit by up to £2,000 and growth in the economy would slow.

“There is no rational case for taking the UK out of the single market.

“And there is no authority for it either.

“How many times did we hear prominent Leave campaigners assure us during the referendum campaign that leaving the EU did not mean leaving the single market?

“And the Conservative Party manifesto, on which Theresa May and every other Tory MP was elected, couldn’t have been clearer. It said this: “We say yes to the Single Market.

“But now we face a hard Brexit imposed by the hard right of the Tory party.

“Well, let me say this. The Prime Minister may have a mandate to take England and Wales out of the EU but she has no mandate whatsoever to remove any part of the UK from the Single Market.

“And if the majority in the House of Commons stand up for what they know to be right, she will not get away with doing it.

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‘The Scottish Government will set out a plan for Scotland’

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“As well as Parliamentary action, over the next few weeks we will table specific proposals to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe and keep us in the single market – even if the rest of the UK decides to leave.

“It’s clear that beyond hard-line rhetoric the UK Government has no detailed plan.

“So the Scottish Government will set out a plan for Scotland. 

“We will seek to make this plan a key element of the UK’s Article 50 negotiation.  It will require substantial additional powers for the Scottish Parliament.

“All the powers in our areas of responsibility that currently lie with the EU – and significant new powers too. Powers to strike international deals.

“And greater powers over immigration. Powers not just to protect our economy, but also our values.

“UK ministers might believe it acceptable to order businesses to create lists of foreign workers.  We do not. 

“Our ambition is to build a prosperous, inclusive and outward looking country.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s attempts to negotiate only on a UK basis, Ms Sturgeon said she would continue to fight for Scotland and would demand another independence referendum.

“If you think for one single second that I’m not serious about doing what it takes to protect Scotland’s interests, then think again,” she said.

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‘A hard Brexit will change the UK fundamentally’

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“If you can’t – or won’t – allow us to protect our interests within the UK, then Scotland will have the right to decide, afresh, if it wants to take a different path.

“A hard Brexit will change the UK fundamentally.

“A UK out of the single market – isolated, inward looking, haemorrhaging jobs, investment and opportunities – will not be the same country that Scotland voted to stay part of in 2014.

“If that’s the insecure, unstable prospect we face as part of the UK, then no one will have the right to deny Scotland the chance to choose a better future.”

On independence, she said: “On the morning after the referendum, I said I would protect Scotland’s ability to make that choice.

“In our Programme for Government, I committed to publishing a draft referendum bill.

“I am determined that Scotland will have the ability to reconsider the question of independence – and to do so before the UK leaves the EU – if that is necessary to protect our country’s interests.

“So I can confirm today that the Independence Referendum Bill will be published for consultation next week.”



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