Wednesday 13 December 2017

Setback for Scotland as Sturgeon is snubbed by Tusk in drive for EU deal

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘Scotland spoke clearly for Remain’. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Nicola Sturgeon: ‘Scotland spoke clearly for Remain’. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Simon Johnson

Nicola Sturgeon's plan to lobby the EU directly to let Scotland stay suffered a major setback yesterday after a senior official rejected her invitation for talks.

The First Minister will travel to Brussels today for a meeting with Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, at which she will argue that special arrangements should be put in place to protect Scotland's EU status.

It marks the start of a public relations blitz in which Ms Sturgeon will attempt to carve out her own foreign policy based on Scotland having made a "different choice" in last week's vote.

But Donald Tusk, the European Council president, declined her overtures, arguing that a meeting would be "not appropriate" given the "situation in the UK."

His refusal is significant as the council comprises the heads of all the member states, who would have to unanimously agree to any special deal for Scotland.

Several central and eastern European states are reported to be concerned that meeting Ms Sturgeon would encourage other separatist movements.

They were reported to be furious with Mr Schulz and his ally, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, for wooing the SNP to put pressure on David Cameron.

Although Mr Juncker's diary means he is unable to meet Ms Sturgeon today, he told television in Luxembourg that he will speak to her shortly.

Ms Sturgeon also won an overwhelming mandate from Holyrood to start discussions about Scotland keeping its EU status. MSPs voted by 92 to zero to explore all options for protecting Scotland's place in the EU. Only 31 Tories abstained over concerns she would use the vote as mandate to create her own foreign policy.

Sturgeon yesterday told the Scottish Parliament she is determined that Scotland's voice "will be heard" after the UK-wide vote for Brexit.

Speaking during an emergency debate at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: "Scotland spoke clearly for Remain and I am determined that Scotland's voice will be heard."

Ms Sturgeon said that being removed from the EU would be against the will of the Scottish people. She also told the Scottish parliament that while she was not seeking endorsement to hold a second independence referendum today, she would put the option forward if it emerges as the only or best way to protect Scotland's place in the EU.

"Based on a very clear result in Scotland, if we were to be removed from the EU, it would be against the will of our people," she said.

"That would be dem­o­cratically unacceptable. It is for that reason that I have said that everything must be on the table to protect our place in Europe - including a second independence referendum."

With both the Con­ser­vative and Labour parties in turmoil, Ms Sturgeon said: "These times call for principles, purpose and clarity - for leadership."

Irish Independent

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