First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has indicated there could be a push for a second Scottish independence referendum if the UK government fails to demonstrate that Scotland’s interests will be protected during negotiations to leave the EU following the Brexit vote, which could include finding a way for Scotland to retain its EU membership
In a speech to members of the Institute for Public Policy Research in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said the UK’s negotiating position must allow those parts of the UK that voted to leave the EU the option of doing so, while those parts which voted to stay should have the option to remain.
‘That means the nations that voted to Leave can start figuring out what Brexit actually does mean - while the others, like Scotland, can focus on how to retain ties and keep open channels we do not want to dismantle,’ Sturgeon said.
She warned that the UK appears to be heading for a ‘hard’ rather than a ‘soft’ exit from the EU - including leaving the single market - which the people of Scotland overwhelmingly did not vote for, and said that if Scotland’s interests cannot be protected then Scotland must have the right to consider another independence referendum.
Sturgeon said: ‘We don’t yet have any clear idea of what a leave vote means in practice - while “Brexit means Brexit” is intended to sound like a strong statement of intent, it is in fact just a soundbite that masks a lack of any clear sense of direction.
‘If we can read anything from the early signs, whether from government appointments or initial pronouncements, it is that the UK is heading towards a hard rather than a soft Brexit - a future outside the single market, with only limited access, and significant restrictions on free movement.’
Saying that Scotland ‘did not choose to be in this situation’, Sturgeon said that negotiations for a Brexit were ‘uncharted territory’, and called on the UK government to ‘find ways to demonstrate that Scotland's voice can be heard, our wishes accommodated and our interests protected within the UK’.
Outlining what that might entail, Sturgeon said: ‘A good start - though I say this more in hope than expectation at this stage- would be for the new Prime Minister and Chancellor to abandon completely the austerity economics pursued by their predecessors.’
Sturgeon also listed other economic concerns, pointing out that Scotland sends almost half its international exports to other EU countries, while its financial services sector is dependent on the EU ‘passporting' system.