Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland will pursue EU membership after independence

First Minister rejects claims by Spain that Scotland would go to 'the back of the queue' for membership

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 19 March 2017 16:29
Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland will pursue EU membership after independence

Nicola Sturgeon has said an independent Scotland would seek full membership of the European Union and dismissed suggestions the country would have to join the back of the queue.

Scotland’s First Minister also said she was willing to have “reasonable discussions” with Theresa May over the timing of a new plebiscite but warned it would not be determined by what is convenient for Downing Street.

Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, the SNP leader insisted she would apply for full membership and join with the other 27 member states after Brexit. But she rejected assertions that Scotland would have the join the back of the queue to do so.

She added: “There is no queue to join the European Union and we have several voices over recent time saying that if Scotland wanted to be in the EU then there would be a very open, warm reception for that.”

It comes after Alfonso Dastis, the Spanish foreign minister, said: “Spain supports the integrity of the United Kingdom and does not encourage secessions or divisions in any of the member states. We prefer things as they are.”

Mr Dastis added that Scotland would “have to queue, meet the requirements for entry, hold negotiations and the result would be that these negotiations would take place”.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon also added there may be “room for discussions” about a date slightly later in 2019.

However, asked whether a date in 2021 would be reasonable, she replied: “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. I think it 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.”

The Scottish First Minister added that she was “up for a discussion within reason” but said convenience for the Prime Minister should not be a factor. “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 chose a different path, is what would be best for the Scottish people”.

It comes after a poll by ComRes for The Independent found that Scottish people are split over whether the Prime Minister is right to block a second independence referendum while Britain negotiates its exit deal with the EU.

The survey found that 44 per cent of Scottish respondents agreed with the statement: “Theresa May should insist that any second Scottish referendum on independence takes place only once Britain has concluded the process of leaving the EU”. But 48 per cent disagreed and 8 per cent didn’t know.

Respondents in England and Wales supported the Prime Minister – 60 per cent said she was right to refuse a second referendum while negotiations with the 27 other EU states are under way; 21 per cent said she was wrong.

Speaking on Sunday Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that calls for a second referendum would be “against the majority wishes”.

She added that Ms Sturgeon was "hell-bent" on destroying the United Kingdom and described Brexit as "this week's excuse" for another independence referendum.

Ms Davidson said: "The SNP is not Scotland and they are acting against the majority wishes of the people of Scotland in putting forward their proposition on Monday.

"I've read far too many headlines saying, 'Scotland reacts X, Scotland reacts Y'. No, it doesn't.

"There are people right across Scotland, many, many thousands of them, that are so thankful for the Prime Minister to say 'let's take a pause on this'."

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