Brexit: Sturgeon hints at second Scottish independence referendum

17 Jan 17

Theresa May’s stance on Brexit has made it more likely that a second referendum on Scottish independence will take place, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has implied. 

In a carefully worded response to the prime minister’s speech, Sturgeon did not refer directly to a so-called ‘IndyRef2’, but said that May’s decision to leave the European single market would spell economic catastrophe for Scotland.

"The UK government cannot be allowed to take us out of the European Union and the single market, regardless of the impact on our economy, jobs, living standards and our reputation as an open, tolerant country, without Scotland having the ability to choose between that and a different future,” Sturgeon said.

“With her comments today, the prime minister has only succeeded in making that choice more likely," the first minister said.

“It seems the Westminster Tory government now think they can do anything to Scotland and get away with it. They must start to understand how wrong they are.”

May is reported to have spoken to Sturgeon shortly before her speech, and to have reiterated her willingness to involve the devolved administrations actively in negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU. "We will put the preservation of our precious union at the heart of everything we do,” May said in her speech.

But it seems to have cut little ice with the Scottish Government, which spelled out in a white paper last December that, one way or another, it intended Scotland to continue within the single market.

In the EU referendum in June, 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU.

MSPs debated the prime minister’s speech at Holyrood, with only the Scottish Tories mustering any enthusiasm for her stance. Although they too campaigned for a ‘remain’ vote last June, their spokesman Dean Lockhart said that May’s speech had produced clarity. He urged Scottish ministers to work with the UK government to secure the best exit deal for Britain.

Labour’s Lewis Macdonald said Scottish ministers should seek ways to protect Scotland’s interests, but that the integrity of the UK marketplace remained crucial.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, said a ‘hard’ Brexit would be “an unmitigated disaster,” and an IndyRef2 would compound its chaos. But the Scottish Greens’ Ross Greer said that the commitment to a hard Brexit made a second vote on Scotland’s constitutional future “all but impossible” to avoid.

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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