Nicola Sturgeon MSP: I am determined that democracy will prevail

Posted On: 
28th March 2017

Scottish voters must be given the chance to choose independence to avoid the hardest of Brexits, says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon during yesterday's independence debate in the Scottish Parliament.
PA Images

Scotland opted decisively to remain in Europe in last June’s referendum.

The country voted by 62 per cent to 38 to stay in the EU, with every single one of the nation’s 32 local authority areas voting remain. And yet we now face the prospect of being dragged out of the EU and the single market by a UK Conservative Government which Scotland didn’t vote for and with just one MP out of 59 north of the border.

That is the yawning democratic deficit now at the heart of political and constitutional debate in Scotland.

And that is the backdrop to the jaw-dropping hypocrisy and arrogance of the Tories’ arguments on the related issues of Brexit and Scotland’s future.

Scotland’s place in Europe was a central issue in the 2014 independence referendum. It was asserted by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and others in the “No” campaign that only a vote against independence would safeguard Scotland’s place in the EU. How hollow those claims ring today.

The Scottish government was re-elected  last year on a specific manifesto pledge which said this: “The Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum…if there is a significant and material change in the circumstance that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

That manifesto was then endorsed by the largest constituency share of the vote of any party in the history of devolution. The election result also returned a pro-independence majority to the Scottish Parliament, and combined with the outcome of the EU referendum gives the Scottish government a cast-iron democratic mandate for an independence referendum.

Our position has now been strengthened by a vote of the Scottish Parliament, mandating the government to open formal discussions with the UK Government on the process to enable Holyrood to legislate to give the people of Scotland a choice on their future.

Contrast that with the mandate of a UK Government now pursuing the hardest of hard Brexits after being elected on a manifesto which explicitly endorsed the UK’s place in the European single market.

I wish Theresa May well in the negotiations to come – a good deal for the UK is in Scotland’s best interests. But a hard Brexit threatens to be economically disastrous for Scotland and the rest of the UK. And we have not yet begun to see the full effects, which will start to flow in the aftermath of the triggering of Article 50.

The Prime Minister says that now is not the time for an independence referendum – I agree with that. But the PM has also indicated that she believes the details of the final Brexit deal will be clear in around 18 months to two years from now, which is the timescale I have indicated would be appropriate for people in Scotland to be given a choice on their future.

And I am determined that democracy will prevail so that the people are given that choice.

Nicola Sturgeon is MSP for Glasgow Southside, SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland.