Sturgeon: Scotland should have option to stay in EU
By Eszter Zalan
Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon said Monday (25 July) that the parts of the UK that voted to stay in the EU should have the option to remain.
She reiterated again that if Scotland’s interests cannot be protected during the exit talks, Scotland must have the right to consider another independence referendum.
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“We can seek to find - or create - a solution that enables Scotland's distinctive voice to be heard and our interests to be protected within the UK. Or we can consider again the option of independence," Sturgeon said.
In a speech in Edinburgh, the Scottish leader called on the UK government's negotiating position during the exit talks to allow those parts of the UK that voted to leave the EU the option of doing so, while those parts which voted to stay, such as Scotland, should have the option to remain.
Sturgeon warned that the UK is heading for a "hard" rather than a "soft" exit from the EU, with limited access to the single market and significant restrictions on free movement.
She lashed out against the Leave camp for failing to prepare for a win at the June referendum, and called former prime minister David Cameron's decision to call the ballot "reckless".
“We don’t yet have any clear idea of what a Leave vote means in practice, while ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is intended to sound like a strong statement of intent, it is in fact just a soundbite that masks a lack of any clear sense of direction," she said.
Sturgeon on the other hand welcomed UK prime minister Theresa May's commitment not to trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty until there is a common UK approach to the exit negotiations.
But she added that she is prepared to take into account all options, including independence, to defend Scotland's interests, arguing that the situation has vastly changed since 2014, when Scots voted to remain in the UK.
“Scotland didn’t choose to be in this situation, and our vital interests are at stake with potential consequences that will affect all of us, so I have a duty to do all that I can to protect those interests," Sturgeon said.
She highlighted five key interests for Scotland to be protected: safeguarding free movement of labour; access to the single market and a say on shaping single market rules; retaining EU funding; and ensuring the continued protection of workers' rights.
Scottish voters backed remaining in the EU by 62 percent to 38 percent in June's referendum, while the UK as a whole voted by 52 percent to 48 percent to leave.