Belfast Telegraph

Nicola Sturgeon: I am not bluffing over second Scottish independence referendum

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted she is not bluffing about the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum as she accused Theresa May of having an "unacceptable" approach to Brexit.

The Scottish First Minister hinted that a "hard" Brexit could see a vote on independence within five years, but insisted that she was offering a "compromise solution" to the Prime Minister.

Ms Sturgeon has indicated that "soft" Brexit could take the issue of a second referendum on Scottish independence off the table in the short term.

But she told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that she was prepared to call a fresh vote if the terms of Brexit were not right.

She said "they will be making a big mistake if they think that I'm in any way bluffing" because leaving the European Union created a "fundamental question" for Scotland.

"If we're going to be ignored, if our voice has been completely cast aside, our interests cast aside, then that can happen on anything," she said.

"And we have to ask ourselves in Scotland are we happy to have the direction of our country, the kind of country we want to be determined by a right-wing Conservative government perhaps for the next 20 years, or do we want to take control of our own future. And that's the case that in those circumstances I think it would be right for Scotland to have the opportunity to decide."

Asked if she was looking at a referendum "much quicker" than in five or 10 years' time if there was a hard Brexit she said: "I would think, yes. But let me not get away from this point, I'm putting to Theresa May a compromise solution."

But the First Minister was critical of Mrs May's approach to the issue and co-operation with leaders of the devolved administrations.

She said that instead of "prioritising " the "sensible solution" of keeping the UK in the single market, Mrs May was trying to "appease" Eurosceptics in her "deeply-divided" party.

Voicing concerns about the Prime Minister's approach to the process, she added: "If the UK's coming out of the European Union that has enormous implications for Scotland as it does for other parts of the UK, it has enormous implications for our economy, for jobs, for living standards, for trade, investment, for the kind of society we are and I want to play my part in making sure we get the right outcome from that.

"That's why the Scottish Government has published proposals that we hope are taken seriously, but thus far almost two-thirds of the way to the triggering of Article 50 we know no more about the UK's position than we did the day after the referendum and that is increasingly unacceptable."

Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon's interview on The Andrew Marr Show, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: "This is yet another attempt by the SNP to sow division and uncertainty, at a time when the country needs to pull together more than ever.

"On Friday the First Minister hinted that she was backing away from another vote, yet today she is again threatening to impose a second independence referendum on the people of Scotland.

"Nicola Sturgeon could provide much needed clarity on Scotland's future by ruling out another independence referendum altogether.

"With a growing crisis in our NHS and a shameful gap between the richest and the rest in our schools, the challenges facing Scotland are too great for the SNP government to be distracted by another referendum.

"With power returning from Brussels, it is now clear that we need a People's Constitutional Convention and a new Act of Union to reform where power lies across the whole of our country, and to save the Union from the threat of the SNP and the Tories who risk pulling it apart."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "This week we've seen Nicola Sturgeon say that she was going to take a referendum off the table, only for her and Alex Salmond to put it back on the table again today.

"The SNP are where they've always been - trying desperately to use Brexit as a means of whipping up support for independence.

"They have failed. The First Minister needs to start acting in the interests of all Scots, not simply playing to her nationalist base."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie criticised the First Minister saying: "The First Minister is all over the place on independence. One minute she backs off, the next she threatens to break up the UK.

"Nicola Sturgeon's inconsistent position is causing damaging uncertainty. She rightly criticises the Prime Minister for a lack of clarity on Brexit but the First Minister is making matters worse with a similar lack of clarity on independence.

She should rule out another independence referendum as she promised only two years ago."

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