Sturgeon hints more MSPs needed in an independent Scotland

The First Minister suggested an independent Scotland would need a bigger Parliament (ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

The First Minister suggested an independent Scotland would need a bigger Parliament (ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

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Nicola Sturgeon last night suggested that a larger Scottish Parliament would be required in an independent Scotland.

The First Minister said there was a case for increasing the number of MSPs that sit at Holyrood should Scotland become independent.

She made her remarks when addressing the Political Studies Association in Glasgow.

When asked if independence would need a larger Holyrood, the First Minister replied: “Would an independent Scotland need a bigger parliament? I think there is an argument...Yes...that it would. Although that would be a matter for the parliament itself to debate and decide.”

Ms Sturgeon said she thought an independent Scotland would “not necessarily (need) a massively bigger parliament.”

She also acknowledged that there would be those who would make arguments “counter to that”.

She added: “There is some debate right now. The new Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament has set up a commission to look at reform that might appropriate for parliament given the powers we are currently implementing in Scotland. There is a live debate already about the size of the parliament and the structure and I am sure it will continue to be so.

“But, in short, yes, I think there is a case to be made but I think we would have a fairly lively debate about it before the parliament came to a decision.”

And she insisted her preferred timetable for a second Scottish independence referendum is necessary to allow voters to make an “informed choice” between Brexit and leaving the UK.

The First Minister is in a stand-off on the issue with Prime Minister Theresa May, who has made clear she believes “now is not the time” for a fresh ballot to be held.

The SNP leader wants there to be another vote on leaving the UK between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, when the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal are clear.

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She pledged the Scottish Government would set out “with as much detail and clarity as possible” key issues such as the currency of a separate Scotland - a crucial factor in the 2014 referendum - ahead of a possible second ballot.

While the First Minister has not yet set out how she intends to take the matter forward, as Scotland’s devolution settlement reserves powers over the constitution to Westminster, she told an audience in Glasgow that people need to be able to “come to a considered judgment” on the issue.

She contrasted the 2014 independence referendum campaign with last year’s vote for the UK to leave the European Union - a position not supported in Scotland where 62% of voters opted to remain part of the bloc.

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But in that ballot she said “people were asked to vote for a change, without ever really being told what that change involved”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t pretend for one moment that the 2014 referendum was perfect. But I do think it was a far better process for debate and decision than the 2016 vote on the EU.

“And so we want to ensure that the next referendum on independence again gives people the information they need to come to an informed and considered judgment.

“That is why nobody wants the referendum to take place immediately. Instead, I believe it should happen once the details of the final Brexit agreement with the EU are known. Based on what the Prime Minister says currently that is likely to be in late 2018 or early 2019.”

She continued: “Of course well before the referendum debate the Scottish Government will also set out proposals for what an independent Scotland would look like, we will address issues such as the currency, our plans for fiscal stability and the process of securing our relationship with Europe in future.

“And we will do all of that with as much detail and clarity as possible.”

The First Minister, who was addressing the Political Studies Association annual conference, recalled EU membership had been a “significant issue” in the 2014 independence referendum.

She said: “Many of those who opposed Scotland becoming independent - including the UK Government - argued that leaving the United Kingdom was a risk, that it would threaten Scotland’s place in the European Union. So it’s somewhat ironic that the opposite has turned out to be true.

“Scotland, despite the arguments that were made in 2014 and how we voted in 2016, faces being forced to leave the EU against our will.

“In my view, that is democratically unacceptable. That is why the Scottish Parliament, two weeks ago, agreed that discussions should begin with the UK Government for a referendum on independence, once the final terms of Brexit deal are known.”

With Scotland again facing “a time of intense political debate”, the First Minister argued a second referendum would not necessarily split the country

Ms Sturgeon said: “There is a lot of talk in Scotland right now about how an independence referendum would be divisive. There is nothing inevitable about this campaign or any campaign being divisive.

“Campaigns and politics are only divisive if we make them so, and we should be determined, all of us, not to make it so.”

She stated: “Fundamentally, all voters simply want the best for their own families, for their communities and for their countries. They just come to different conclusions about how best to achieve that.

“So the campaign around Scottish independence needs always to respect that fact. We need to recognise the honesty and validity of people’s anxieties, doubts and differences of opinion.

“As First Minister, I have a responsibility to lead by example. After all, the Scottish Government has a special responsibility to build consensus where we can.

“So I will do my best to ensure that at all times we make our case not just with passion and conviction, but with courtesy, empathy and respect. I hope very much that all politicians will do the same.”

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