NICOLA Sturgeon has said the timing of a second independence referendum should not be determined by what is “convenient” for Theresa May, but by what is right for the Scottish people – once the terms of Brexit are clear and before it is too late for the country to choose a different path.
The Prime Minister last week rejected Sturgeon's call for a second indyref before Brexit, saying “now is not the time”. The First Minister is determined to hold the ballot, and wants it to take place between autumn next year and spring 2019.
She told ITV’s Peston on Sunday that there may be “room for discussions” about a date slightly later in 2019, but ruled out a date in 2021.
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She said: “I don’t think that is reasonable because by that point Scotland has been taken out of the EU, two years have elapsed, presumably there is divergence opening up between the rules of the European Union, the single market and where the UK is going, and I think it then gets much harder for Scotland to take a different course.
“But if she’s talking in the spring of 2019, a bit later perhaps than I was suggesting, then there may be some room for discussions around that.
“I’m up for a discussion within reason, but this is not a timetable that should be determined by what is convenient for Theresa May any more than it should be determined by what is convenient for me. It should be determined by what is right for the Scottish people and I think when the terms of Brexit are clear, but before it is too late for us to choose a different path, is what would be best for the Scottish people.”
MSPs will vote this week on her request for a Section 30 order from Westminster, which would be needed for Holyrood to hold a legally binding ballot.
Sturgeon said that membership of the single market was the “minimum” that must be secured for Scotland.
“That’s the compromise position I set out, that we across the UK try to secure single market membership," she said. “The reason I was prepared to compromise there is because I think that the minimum for Scotland is to be in the single market, it’s what I think makes sense for the UK as well if it’s out of the EU, but my preference is for an independent Scotland to be in the EU.”
Earlier, she told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that Scotland would seek to remain part of the EU. “There is no queue to join the European Union and we have had several voices over recent times saying that if Scotland wanted to be in the EU then there would be a very open warm reception for that,” she said.
Sturgeon admitted that she did not yet know which currency an independent Scotland would use, and when pressed on whether Scotland could afford to become independent with a £15 billion deficit, she replied: “Perhaps some people would look at that and say could Scotland afford not to be, because that deficit ... is one that has been created on, to use shorthand, ‘Westminster’s Watch’.
“That’s not a feature of life in an independent Scotland, that’s what happened with Scotland as part of the UK.”
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Alex Rowley told party members in Ardrossan that the SNP and Tories would have to consider the third option that was on the table: “The home rule proposal Scottish Labour agreed at its conference in February." He added: "No debate on Scotland’s future can be held without that third option being heard.”
His party’s economy spokes- woman Jackie Baillie accused the First Minister of refusing to give voters clarity.
“Last week John Swinney refused six times in a radio interview to answer the basic question about currency, Joanna Cherry was left floundering when asked the question on TV, and Stewart Hosie has signalled that the SNP wants to ditch the pound,” said Baillie.
“Yet now we have Nicola Sturgeon causing even more confusion. It’s quite clear that nobody in the party has a clue what would happen. Voters deserve better than that.”
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson the majority of Scots did not want another referendum. She told Andrew Marr on the BBC: “I don’t think you can have an independence referendum again if you don’t have public consent for it, and the people of Scotland don’t want this.
“We see another poll today, to add to the many dozen that we’ve seen since June of last year that show that the majority of people in Scotland don’t want this.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said Sturgeon’s refusal to guarantee membership of the EU made the case for another poll increasingly feeble.
He said: “The First Minister can’t use the EU to claim a mandate when her referendum won’t take us back in. It shows that the EU was just an excuse and that it has only ever been about independence for the SNP.”
Colin Fox, national spokesman for the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), said Scotland was “at a turning point in our history”.
Speaking after a meeting of the party executive, he reiterated the party’s commitment to Scottish independence, and added: “Supporting Scotland’s democratic right to self-determination does not make you a nationalist, it makes you a democrat. The SSP are not nationalists. We are socialists who support self-determination.”
He said independence was not an end in itself, but a route towards significant advance and a transformation in the lives of five million people.
“We will get the chance to build the kind of country we want, one that is egalitarian and leaves no-one behind in poverty and neglect,” said Fox.
He said the SSP believed a second referendum could be won whenever it took place, but the campaign had to encompass the wider movement.
“It is imperative the Yes campaign is again broad-based and inclusive and that non-nationalist supporters of independence like the SSP are prominent within it.
“For all its strength today, the SNP cannot win this vote on its own.
“The SSP has today contacted our partners in the SNP and Greens to make clear we are prepared to participate in a broad coalition for Independence as we did last time, and await their response.”