NICOLA Sturgeon will today unveil plans to boost Scotland’s trade with Europe by establishing a permanent hub in Berlin and a network of new envoys across the continent.
In her keynote speech at the SNP conference in Glasgow, the First Minister is also set to announce the creation of a new Board of Trade and a doubling of trade and investment staff working across Europe.
She is expected to tell delegates: “The growth of our economy right now is threatened not just by the prospect of losing our place in the single market – disastrous though that would be.
“It is also the deeply damaging – and utterly shameful – message that the Tories’ rhetoric about foreign workers is sending and the uncertainty that message brings to our public services and Scottish employers. More than ever we need to tell our European friends that Scotland is open for business.”
The conference yesterday overwhelmingly backed a resolution from Edinburgh Western constituency branch saying that if Scotland’s membership of the EU could not be safeguarded while remaining part of the UK, the country should prepare for a second independence referendum.
Former candidate Toni Giugliano said the message from Scotland, which voted 62 per cent to stay in the EU, had to be “Remain means remain”.
Scotland’s Brexit minister Mike Russell and Europe Secretary Fiona Hyslop both spoke in support.
And Edinburgh South-West MP Joanna Cherry said the SNP had a democratic mandate to call another referendum if Scotland was dragged out of the EU against its will. “It is our duty to do it if necessary,” she added.
But another Edinburgh delegate, Alex Orr, urged caution over the timing of a fresh vote. “The next independence referendum must be one that we are confident we can win or the issue will be off the agenda for decades.”
Earlier, Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced a major review of the role of local government. He told the conference: “We want to re-invigorate local government by reconnecting it with communities. The principle of local control, not on behalf of a community, but by a community is key.
“We will review the roles of local authorities and we will look again at the relationships between local authorities and health boards.
“We aim to achieve nothing less than to transform our democratic landscape, protect and renew public services and refresh the relationship between citizens, communities and councils.