Stur­geon poised to make her move on indyref2

●Brexit ‘ma­te­ri­ally strength­ens’ the case for a fresh poll, says First Min­is­ter

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By PARIS GOURTSOYAN­NIS West­min­ster Cor­re­spon­dent

The case for Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence has been “ma­te­ri­ally strength­ened” by Brexit, Ni­cola Stur­geon has claimed as the UK gov­ern­ment bat­tles to save the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal with the EU.

The First Min­is­ter said she hoped to be able to un­veil her timetable for a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum “very soon”, re­new­ing spec­u­la­tion that she will is­sue a de­mand for a fresh vote on Scot­land’s fu­ture in the weeks ahead.

And she at­tacked Jeremy Cor­byn for re­fus­ing to em­brace an­other ref­er­en­dum on Brexit, call­ing on the Labour leader to “get off the fence”. Her com­ments came as MPS re­turned to West­min­ster fol­low­ing the Christ­mas break with lit­tle sign of progress in con­vinc­ing Con­ser­va­tive rebels to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties ral­lied be­hind a plan to make de­liv­ery of a no-deal Brexit im­pos­si­ble by amend­ing key fi­nan­cial leg­is­la­tion, in a bid to pre­vent the UK crash­ing out of the EU with­out an agree­ment.

Mean­while, crit­ics blasted a test of plans to deal with grid­lock around the UK’S Chan­nel ports in the event of no-deal as a farce, af­ter the gov­ern­ment gath­ered half the num­ber of lor­ries it said it needed for the ex­er­cise at an air­field in Kent.

Speak­ing to the BBC, Ms Stur­geon claimed Scot­land’s in­ter­ests were be­ing “com­pletely ig­nored and side­lined” and that what has hap­pened in the past two years has re­in­forced the case for it to leave the UK.

Ms Stur­geon would not be drawn on tim­ings around an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, but in­sisted the SNP had a man­date to call an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum be­fore the next Holy­rood elec­tion.

“Ev­ery­thing that has hap­pened over the past cou­ple of years, from Scot­land fac­ing exit from the EU against our will to ev­ery rea­son­able at­tempt at com­pro­mise to pro­tect Scot­land’s in­ter­ests by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment be­ing spurned, to the pow­ers of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment be­ing eroded, to the UK gov­ern­ment even tak­ing the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to court, all of that has strength­ened and re­in­forced the case for Scot­land to be in­de­pen­dent, be­cause these are not just aca­demic ar­gu­ments, all of this will have a ma­te­rial im­pact on Scot­land’s econ­omy and well-be­ing for decades

to come,” Ms Stur­geon said. “The case for in­de­pen­dence is ma­te­ri­ally strength­ened from an al­ready strong base in 2014 be­cause of all of the ex­pe­ri­ence of Scot­land in the last two years. We were told in 2014 that it was vot­ing for in­de­pen­dence that would put in peril our mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Union.

“Be­cause we didn’t vote for in­de­pen­dence, we now not just find our­selves fac­ing exit, the voice and the in­ter­ests of Scot­land are be­ing com­pletely ig­nored and side­lined.”

Ms Stur­geon said there is “clearly no ma­jor­ity” to crash out of the EU with­out a deal and that hold­ing an­other ref­er­en­dum on Brexit should be the al­ter­na­tive.

She said: “I hope the mean­ing­ful vote does go ahead next week so that MPS can once and for all say that they don’t sup­port the With­drawal Agree­ment, and then the House of Com­mons can co­a­lesce be­hind the al­ter­na­tive, and in my view that al­ter­na­tive now should be to have an­other EU ref­er­en­dum. I don’t take for granted that there is a ma­jor­ity for that, but the SNP will be partof­build­ingth­at­ma­jor­ity.”

Turn­ing her fire on the Labour leader, Ms Stur­geon added: “I think there’s a big ques­tion for Jeremy Cor­byn now: is he go­ing to get off the fence and ac­tu­ally do what the ma­jor­ity of his own party mem­bers want him to do, which is back a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum?”

Mrs May’s of­fi­cial spokesman ac­cused the First Min- is­ter of “sow­ing the pol­i­tics of di­vi­sion” and said the Prime Min­is­ter was fo­cused on de­liv­er­ing her Brexit deal.

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive deputy leader Jack­son Car­law called on the SNP leader to aban­don her “ob­ses­sion” with in­de­pen­dence.

“To­day Scots are head­ing back to work at the be­gin­ning of a new year, but Ni­cola Stur­geon is stuck in the past,” Mr Car­law said. “As at the start of 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 her pri­or­ity is to re­run the ref­er­en­dum of 2014. Peo­ple across the coun­try will cor­rectly be think­ing, ‘There she goes again’.

“Thebest­newyear’sres­o­lu­tion the SNP could make would be to drop the in­de­pen­dence ob­ses­sion and con­cen­trate on de­liv­er­ing for the peo­ple of Scot­land.”

Scot­tish Labour leader Richard Leonard said “one of the ex­pe­ri­ences of Brexit has been just how dif­fi­cult and painful it can be to break away from a union, even one that has been place for just 40 years”.

Mr Leonard added: “A union that has been in place for 300 years would, in my view, cause con­sid­er­able eco­nomic dis­rup­tion and there is no ap­petite from the peo­ple of Scot­land for it.”

Scot­tish Lib­eral Demo­crat leader Wil­lie Ren­nie claimed the SNP “ap­pear to have learned ab­so­lutely noth­ing from Brexit”, adding: “Break­ing up is hard to do.”

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