SNP MPs will back a second referendum on Britain’s departure from the European Union, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed, amid growing calls for a “People’s Vote”.
As delegates gathered in Glasgow for her party’s autumn conference yesterday, the First Minister said Brexit now makes the prospect of Scottish independence “inevitable” .
The SNP leader had previously indicated her party would not stand in the way of a second poll, but has now made clear that her 35 MPs would back one if there is a vote on it in the House of Commons.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “The country – Scotland or the UK as a whole – can’t find itself in the situation where it’s a really bad outcome or a worse outcome. There has to be space for common sense and calm consideration of the best outcome.”
On the prospect of a vote by MPs on another Brexit referendum, Ms Sturgeon said: “I would expect the SNP MPs to vote for that if it comes to a vote in the House of Commons.”
Ms Sturgeon also indicated that the Brexit process over the past two years had sealed the case for independence.
Asked whether she thought independence was now “inevitable”, she said: “I think Scottish independence will happen so you’re asking me to use the term ‘inevitable’, I guess I would use that.
“I think we’re on a journey that will end with independence. I think Brexit brings the issues around this very sharply into focus.” Ms Sturgeon referred to “democratic deficit” that saw two-thirds of Scots vote Remain while the UK as a whole voted Leave.
“It’s hard to think of a better illustration of that democratic deficit than that,” she said.
The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, but issues such as the Irish border and trade have stalled talks. It was hoped an agreement could be reached at the EU summit on 17 October but officials say it could be later. MPs would then be given a “meaningful vote” on the deal.
Ms Sturgeon said she would make her opinion known about the case for another poll after “this phase” of Brexit talks are over.
She said: “I will set out what I think the next steps are when we are at the end of this phase of negotiations.
“Whether I like it or not – or whether anybody likes it or not – the future of EU-UK relationship is the context in which Scotland will decide that question of independence.”
She added: “I will set out my views on the next steps at that stage, if that’s when Theresa May comes back with the deal.
“It could be later this month, it could be November, it could be December.” A poll yesterday suggested a no-deal Brexit would see backing for Scottish independence reach 52 per cent.
The Survation survey for the Sun on Sunday also shows support would be a 50/50 split if the break-up goes “as planned”, while support for leaving the UK would be at 46 per cent if there was a referendum tomorrow.
Another poll showed backing for Scottish independence would merely grow in the case of a no-deal Brexit – but would not find a majority.
The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times found support for leaving the UK would increase from 45 per cent in September 2014 to 48 per cent, while support for staying would fall from 55 per cent to 52 per cent.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Scots should not be forced into accepting the result of a second Brexit referendum if they again vote to remain but the majority of the UK vote to leave.
He indicated that such a scenario should see Scotland given the right to hold a second vote on independence
“If there’s a People’s Vote, we need to make sure that our position is protected,” he told the Sophy Ridge Show on Sky News.
“We must have the right – if we are being dragged out of Europe, if we are being dragged out of the single market and customs union – that we have that ability to determine our own future.”
The campaign group All Under One Banner held a rally on Saturday that saw supporters of Scottish independence march down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to Holyrood Park.
Organisers estimated 100,000 people took part, but authorities put the figure at 20,000.
Mr Blackford added: “As this conference takes place, there was a huge demonstration yesterday in Edinburgh, talking about up to 100,000 people that marched in support for Scottish independence.
“There are polls out this morning that show that a majority of the Scottish people would support an independent Scotland in the likelihood of a hard Brexit.
“So it’s very clear circumstances here are changing. I think people are expressing a very clear opinion that they want to have their rights – as European citizens – protected.”
Mr Blackford also said SNP MPs were poised to vote against the final deal on Brexit if Mrs May’s proposals will take the UK out of the EU single market and customs union.
He will lead a delegation of Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat MPs for talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier this month.
SNP backing for a second vote comes after Labour indicated at its party conference a fortnight ago that it could also support another vote on Brexit.
A spokesman for the People’s Vote campaign said support was growing for a referendum on the final terms of Brexit.