Nicola Sturgeon: Indyref2 could be shelved with "soft" Brexit

A second referendum on Scottish independence could be shelved if a so called "soft Brexit" approach is adopted when the UK quits the EU, Nicola Sturgeon has indicated.

Friday, 6th January 2017, 11:42 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:12 pm
Nicola Sturgeon insists Scotland is heading for independence in the long-term

The First Minister said she is ready to seek "consensus and compromise" in the short-term over the issue, although she made it clear she believes Scotland is heading towards independence in the longer term.

A "soft Brexit" would mean that the UK - and Scotland - retains membership and access to the EU single market, which Ms Sturgeon has previously said is a red line issue because of the importance to the economy north of the border.

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The SNP has already launched a second national conversation on independence as it seeks to win over wavering No voters from 2014, while the the Scottish Government has also drawn up legislation for a proposed second referendum to be held.

But Ms Sturgeon told BBC Radio Scotland today this could be shelved "in terms of the timetable of Brexit" if a soft exit could be achieved.

"I think there's a lot of consensus starting to build around some of those additional powers, for example around immigration," she told the Good Morning Scotland programme.

"We've put forward very detailed plans about how we avoid a hard Brexit and the reason it's important to avoid a hard Brexit, let's not forget, is because that will have a devastating impact on our economy and on jobs.

"So I'm in a sense willing to put aside my preferred option of independence in the EU to see if we can explore a consensus and compromise option."

The First Minister added: "We want to try to work with others across the UK, across the political spectrum, to try to keep the UK in the single market."

Voters in Scotland backed the UK staying in the EU by 62% to 38%, although recent pools suggest that support for a second independence referendum is falling.

The Scottish Government has put forward a plan to UK ministers detailing how Scotland could retain membership of the single market, that included devolving more powers to Holyrood, as part of a stand-alone Scottish-EU deal.

Opposition parties today stepped up calls for Ms Sturgeon to rule out a second referendum altogether.

Conservative leader said: “The First Minister knows that if another referendum on independence was called tomorrow, she’d lose.

“Scotland is kept in limbo as Nicola Sturgeon tries to find an escape route after marching her troops to the top of a mountain, but still keeping the threat of a second referendum on the table as a possibility for the future.

“The First Minister should act in the interests of the whole country by recognising the decision Scotland made just two years ago and respecting that result.”

Labour’s Iain Gray also highlighted recent polls which indicate support is falling for a second vote,” he said.

“The First Minister could clear up any doubt about her intentions by ruling out another referendum altogether. The vast majority of people in Scotland don’t want to go through another referendum. They want the SNP to address the crisis in our NHS and clean up the mess Nationalist ministers have made of education, not obsess about another independence referendum.”