Sunday 23 July 2017

Scots to park referendum if UK secures a 'soft Brexit'

Nicola Sturgeon Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon Picture: PA

Catriona Webster

A 'soft Brexit' could take the prospect of a second referendum on Scottish independence off the table in the short term, Nicola Sturgeon has suggested.

The Scottish First Minister said she believed independence was the "direction of travel" for Scotland but was willing to put it aside as her preferred option in order to seek "consensus and compromise" over Brexit.

In the days following the vote to leave the European Union, Ms Sturgeon said a second referendum on independence was "highly likely" given the majority support for 'Remain' in Scotland.

A consultation on a draft bill that could bring about a second vote on the issue closes next week.

A 'soft Brexit' is seen as crucial in achieving Ireland's goals in Brexit negotiations on the peace process, the Border and the common travel area.

The first minister told BBC Radio Scotland: "We want to try to work with others across the UK across the political spectrum to try to keep the UK in the single market.

"If that can't be done, then we want to explore ways - and we've put forward how we think this can be done - of keeping Scotland in the single market while continuing to protect free trade across the rest of the UK and said very clearly that would require additional powers for the Scottish Parliament."

Ms Sturgeon said she believed there was consensus building around some of those additional powers, including immigration.

"We've put forward very detailed plans about how we avoid a 'hard Brexit' and the reason it's important to avoid a 'hard Brexit', let's not forget, is because that will have a devastating impact on our economy and on jobs," she said.

Asked whether talk of a second independence referendum would come off the table in the event of a 'soft Brexit', Ms Sturgeon said: "I'm never going to stop arguing for independence.

"I think Scotland will become independent and I think that's the direction of travel. But we're talking at the moment in the context of the Brexit vote."

Journey

Pressed on whether it would be put aside in the short term, she added: "In terms of the timescale of Brexit, that's what I've been very clear about.

"Am I going to stop arguing for independence or believing in independence?

"Am I going to stop believing Scotland is on a journey to independence? No.

"But we're talking here in the particular context and timescale of Brexit, and I'm putting these proposals forward in good faith.

"I'm deliberately saying 'put my preferred option to one side' and asking people if we can find a consensus and compromise option."

Ms Sturgeon later tweeted it was a "reasonable assessment" that a second independence referendum currently appeared more likely than a 'soft Brexit'.

But she said the Scottish government proposals had been "put forward in good faith", adding "Ball is in PM court".

Irish Independent

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