UK

Nicola Sturgeon Hints At Second Scottish Independence Referendum After Theresa May Brexit Speech

'It is not in our national interests.'

17/01/2017 15:39 GMT | Updated 18/01/2017 12:05 GMT

Nicola Sturgeon has hinted a second independence referendum for Scotland is more likely after Theresa May outlined her plans to take Britain out of the Single Market.

The SNP leader said the Scottish people “did not vote for the direction set out in the Prime Minister’s speech today - and it is not in our national interests”.

But Labour’s Kezia Dugdale said the party would not back any attempts to “force another independence referendum on the people of Scotland”.

In a landmark speech in London this lunchtime, the Prime Minister said her government wanted to regain control of the UK’s immigration policies - meaning membership of the Single Market was impossible.

May also said that Parliament would get a vote on the final Brexit deal, and the UK would try to negotiate a transitional period once the two-year Article 50 period has expired.

In a statement released after May’s announcement, the First Minister said: “For all her warm words, it is now clear that the UK is heading for a hard Brexit, which threatens to be economically catastrophic.

“Decisions are being driven not by the rational best interests of the country, but by the obsessions of the hard-right of the Tory party.

“It is also becoming clear that a more fundamental issue is emerging – not just whether the UK is in or out of the EU, but what kind of country it is going to be.

“The Prime Minister gave the game away towards the end of her speech when she talked of the potential for the UK to become a low wage, low tax, de-regulated economy.

“That would see a race to the bottom replace our membership of the Single Market and everyone – perhaps apart from the very wealthiest – would be worse off as a result.”

Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Nicola Sturgeon has hinted at another Scottish independence referendum.

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had “made clear” the importance of Single Market membership to the country’s economy.

The SNP leader continued: “We have not yet seen evidence that Scotland’s voice is being listened to or our interests taken into account.

“While discussions on those proposals continue, and while the Prime Minister today reiterated her pledge to give our plan proper consideration, 

“That must change in short order if there is to be any confidence that Scotland’s interests can be met within the UK.

“And if, as the PM has now signaled, the UK is not staying in the single market, then there must be serious engagement on our proposal to allow Scotland to do so.

“So while the Scottish Government will continue to take decisions in an orderly and responsible way, one thing should remain crystal clear – the Tory Government cannot be allowed to act against Scotland’s wishes and our interests, and reject all attempts at compromise.

“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. The UK Government cannot be allowed to take us out of the EU 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. 

“With her comments today, the Prime Minister has only succeeded in making that choice more likely.”

Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Kezia Dugdale.

Scottish Labour leader Dugdale accused May of trying to “appease the right wing of the Conservative Party” rather than the interests of the nation.

The Scottish politician also urged Sturgeon to rule out another independence referendum altogether.

Dugdale said: “We are already a divided country, and after Theresa May’s speech those divisions will increase. Once again the Tories have put the Union at risk by furthering the sort of divisions the SNP thrives on. 

“The wrong reaction to this speech would be to call for another referendum on independence. It’s illogical to react to the UK leaving the EU single market by calling for Scotland to leave the UK single market too.

“Remaining in the UK is even more important to Scotland than being part of the EU. Scotland’s economy, jobs and public finances are all boosted by remaining in the UK. 

“Under independence, Scotland would face the prospect of being out of the EU and out of the UK. That would be a disaster for Scotland.

“At a time when our economy is in desperate need of some certainty Nicola Sturgeon should rule out another independence referendum altogether.

“Scottish Labour will not back any attempts by the Nationalists to force another independence referendum on the people of Scotland.

“We need to reform where power lies within the UK. That’s why I have proposed a People’s Constitutional Convention, to give people more say over how they are governed.

“We need a new Act of Union to strengthen our nation for decades to come.”