Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she is starting to worry Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “actually now almost planning for” a no-deal Brexit.
Scotland’s First Minister told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour she thought the chances of a deal happening before the end of the Brexit transition period was now “almost vanishingly small”.
Mr Johnson warned there is a “strong possibility” the UK will fail to broker a trade agreement with the EU and on Thursday night told the nation to prepare for no-deal.
However he also insisted negotiators would “go the extra mile” in trying to get a treaty in time for December 31.
In the interview, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think the chances of a deal now are almost vanishingly small. They’re not non-existent, and I remain hopeful I guess, because no-deal would be catastrophic.
“But I’m starting to worry not just that no-deal is now the overwhelming likelihood, but that Boris Johnson is actually now almost planning for that.
“Exactly a year ago right now, the UK general election took place, and he fought that election to be elected as prime minister, basically saying that his deal with the European Union was off and ready.
“He later said that no-deal would be a failure of statecraft, and it was a million-to-one chance against that happening.
“Now, today, he’s saying it is very highly probable.
“It seems to me that all of that is because Boris Johnson is failing to grasp or accept that responsible, independent countries in the modern world have to collaborate and work with others, and at times pool sovereignty for the greater good, for the greater well-being and prosperity of their populations.
“And, you know, I think he’s about to take the UK down a very, very damaging road, and for Scotland that is made all the worse, because we didn’t vote for it.”
It comes after Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament she is “deeply and increasingly” concerned about the lack of clarity on arrangements after the Brexit transition period ends.
She said she could not give an “absolute assurance” that a no-deal Brexit will not have an impact on the health service when concerns were raised by Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie about potential shortages of drugs and PPE.
The SNP leader was also asked about the case for Scottish independence – with numerous polls showing a majority voting Yes in the event of a second referendum – and the “bluster” of Mr Johnson, who “obviously pushes back on any SNP intervention in Parliament”.
Leader of the Scottish National Party @NicolaSturgeonÂ says the UK's exit from the EU, against the wishes of the Scottish people, leaves the country with a key question on independence: "Do we now decide to take our future into our own hands so Scotland can chart its own path?" pic.twitter.com/3SSNI8bKoq— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) December 10, 2020
The First Minister told Ms Amanpour: “Most things with Boris Johnson are bluster, to be perfectly frank about it, but maybe I’m biased in that regard.
“But there is a theory in Scotland of course, that every time Boris Johnson speaks about Scotland support for independence rises, so maybe I should encourage him to do more of it.
“Any country being independent brings challenges as well as opportunities. I take nothing for granted if there is, as I intend that there will be a referendum to allow people in Scotland to choose independence.
“I and those arguing for it have to persuade the majority to choose that option, and we have to do that in an open and frank way recognising the challenges as well as the massive opportunities.
“And in actual fact, do it in a way that is the polar opposite of how Boris Johnson and his colleagues argued the case for Brexit, which was to give nobody any detail and to deny all of the challenges, which is why, three-and-a-half years later, he faces the prospect of crashing out at the end of the transition period with no-deal, because he never levelled with people about the realities of Brexit and the trade-offs and the issues that had to be resolved along the way.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell said he still held out hope over a deal, “or at the very least a number of significant agreements that ease things for key sectors”.
He also admitted on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland show it “should be the easiest deal in history”, before adding: “It should be perfectly possible to reach an amicable agreement because it’s in the interest of both sides to get a deal.
“Of course it’s sensible to start preparing for the worst but I think we will see, time will tell, I’m still very hopeful that we will see a deal and I don’t know what people expect the Prime Minister to do.
“Do we just accept a shoddy deal – either it will be bad for the UK, bad for Scotland – just to get this over? Or do we keep pushing, having come this far, having spent the last four years going round and round in circles, do we keep pushing until the last to get the best possible deal?
“Well that’s what I hope he’d do… 17,500 people in my constituency voted to leave like me, and I suspect they will be pragmatic about this.
“I’m not at the point of writing off the negotiations, but I’m confident personally going into an election having done what I said I would do.”