NICOLA Sturgeon has called for a united front from Scottish political leaders if the country backs independence in 2014, insisting a “Team Scotland” approach will be needed to secure the best deal.
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Opposition parties in Scotland will be invited to take part in separation negotiations with Westminster in the event of a Yes vote, Ms Sturgeon said in a keynote speech on Monday.
The crucial talks would iron out issues such as Scotland’s share of North Seal oil and gas resources and how much of the UK’s £1 trillion national debt it must take on.
Ms Sturgeon made her first major speech since taking over responsibility for the independence referendum recently, as the new constitution minister.
She told an audience of civic and business leaders in Glasgow that if Scots vote Yes, the negotiations would be led by the SNP government.
But she added: “We will not act alone. If there is a Yes vote for independence, the Scottish Government will invite representatives of the other parties and of civic Scotland to contribute to those negotiations.”
Labour leader Johann Lamont, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie would “argue Scotland’s case as strongly as Alex Salmond” in those talks, she said.
Speaking at Strathclyde University’s Barony Hall, Deputy First Minister Ms Sturgeon said that by the time such negotiations happened, “we will have had our debate and taken our decision”.
She said: “Each of us will have argued our case strongly and passionately. But when the people of Scotland have spoken, we will emerge from it as one united nation. We will be team Scotland and at that moment in our history I am sure, whatever they say this side of the referendum, that Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie will argue Scotland’s case as strongly as Alex Salmond.”
The SNP government also plans to introduce a written constitution after independence. Nationalists want this to outlaw nuclear weapons, but Ms Sturgeon wants the “widest possible” range of people involved in drawing the document up.
This would be “a thoroughly inclusive process”, she added. “It’s not for one political party to do that.”
In the event of a Yes vote, “you would have an interim constitution to allow the transfer of powers. Then the independent Scottish Parliament would, in all probability, appoint a commission that would work through the new constitution”.
Labour’s constitution spokeswoman, Patricia Ferguson, backed Ms Sturgeon’s call for all parties to “unite behind the result”. But she added: “I only hope she is just as quick to accept the result should the people of Scotland vote to stay in the UK.”
Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Scots are crying out for answers on fundamental questions, such who would be defending our shores.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “It goes without saying that, following the decision of the Scottish people in 2014, we must come together as a country to build a better future.”