Leader comment: Sturgeon pitching for poll position

First Minister of Scotland and the leader of the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon at the SNP conference in Glasgow. Picture PA
First Minister of Scotland and the leader of the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon at the SNP conference in Glasgow. Picture PA
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It is of course no surprise that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that a consultation gets under way next week on plans for a second Scottish independence referendum. Another poll was always lurking, it still is.

But what it does is send Prime Minister Theresa May a reminder of the stakes involved in the Brexit negotiations. Ms Sturgeon said Scotland had the right to choose a different path if it was not allowed to protect its interests “within the UK”.

Ms Sturgeon says those interests are best served by Scotland remaining a part of the single market and that she wanted new powers from Westminster that would allow Scotland to agree transnational trade deals and on immigration.

Everything that has come out of Europe on this issue has indicated that any access to the single market must come at the cost of some form of free movement of people. Mrs May has made it clear she wants to retain some control over immigration.

But if Ms Sturgeon retains some form of access for Scotland that is denied the rest of the UK, the implication is that Scotland will also have a different deal on immigration. That can only mean a hard border woudl have to be introduced. Many would argue that a country with a hard border with another country is by definition independent.

It might appear that Ms Sturgeon is making demands that she knows Mrs May can never agree to. Mrs May might have to seek to demonstrate that single market access is not the sole repository of the best interests of Scotland, given the uncertainties about an independent Scotland’s currency and relationship with the EU.