Scottish leader outlines priorities for Brexit negotiations
25 July 2016. By Mari Eccles.
The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has outlined her priorities for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and warned of another independence referendum if Scottish interests aren’t represented in a Brexit deal.
Speaking in Edinburgh today, Sturgeon said Scotland’s five areas of interest in the negotiations are “democracy, economic prosperity, social protection, solidarity and influence.”
On democratic accountability in particular, she called for Scotland’s voice to be heard in negotiations. “We didn’t vote to leave, we voted to remain — does our voice count?” she said.
In the Brexit referendum, 62 percent of the Scottish electorate voted to remain in the European Union, with all 32 local authorities voting to stay. This was at odds with voting patterns across all of the UK, where almost 52 percent of voters chose to leave the EU.
“We must keep our options open,” she said. “But if we find our interests can’t be protected in a UK context, then independence must be one of those options,” she said.
Despite the Brexit vote across the UK, Sturgeon is keen to retain ties with Brussels. But she said current signs point to a “hard Brexit” for the UK, outside the single market and with significant restrictions on free movement.
“If we can read anything from the early signs, whether that’s government appointments or initial pronouncements, it is — though I hope I’m wrong about this — that the UK is heading toward ‘hard’ rather than ‘soft’ Brexit,” she said.
The new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has appointed Leave campaigner Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, while Euroskeptic David Davis heads up the team in charge of the UK’s exit from the union.
But Sturgeon said the UK government had to be “clear” on how it would involve Scotland and other devolved parliaments in developing the UK position before the formal process of leaving the EU commences. Sturgeon called for clarity in ensuring a “meaningful assessment” of ideas put forward.