The First Minister flew to Belgium for talks with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. She also gave a speech outlining her plans for another vote on breaking up the Union and her determination to keep Scotland in the European Union at all costs. In an unusual move, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt withheld diplomatic support for the visit and asked the Scottish Government to organise the trip itself.
A spokesman said the UK Government could not support “activities intended to campaign for policies contrary” to its position. Ms Sturgeon described the move as “pretty childish and pathetic” and added: “It’s not causing me to lose any sleep. It’s not making any real practical difference to my meetings here today, but I think it offers a bit of a window into what’s going on in the Tory party right now.”
Meanwhile, one of Ms Sturgeon’s former advisors has warned that her chances of successfully holding a second independence referendum by May 2021 were “very remote indeed”.
Writing in the Press and Journal, Campbell Gunn, who was also special advisor to Alex Salmond, said: “We’re currently in the midst of a Conservative leadership election with the winner automatically becoming prime minister. One by one, the candidates have stated categorically, some more vehemently than others, that they would oppose granting permission to the Scottish Parliament to hold another independence referendum. And that, frankly, is that.
“Of course, the Scottish Government could go ahead with its plans. With the support of the Greens, the SNP could win a vote at Holyrood to hold a referendum. But it would not have any legislative competence and would only be considered ‘indicative’, with no weight in international law.
“And, naturally, the Unionist opposition parties would encourage their own supporters to boycott the vote, resulting in any majority for independence being meaningless.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of campaign group Scotland in Union, seized on the comments. She said: “Campbell is right, which begs the question, why is Nicola Sturgeon devoting taxpayer-funded Government resources to it and spending precious Parliamentary time on it?
“Only a fifth of people in Scotland want another divisive independence referendum within her timescale.”
In her speech at the European Policy Centre think tank, Ms Sturgeon insisted that she would press ahead with her bid to hold another independence vote before the next Holyrood elections.
She said: “The people of Scotland have to have a choice before it’s too late to stop the damage of Brexit being done. Increasingly, Scotland and the UK are on different political paths. We have to confront whether the better response to that is to have the ability to be independent and shape our own future.”
She also made clear that Scotland is seeking to stay in the European Union for wider reasons than to simply benefit from frictionless trade and the free movement of workers.
Instead, she said: “We also want to contribute Scotland’s ideas and talents to Europe’s shared challenges and to uphold and exemplify our shared values.”
Published at Tue, 11 Jun 2019 23:01:00 +0000