Nicola Sturgeon warned that the coming weeks will hold the key as she decides whether to call another independence referendum after talks with Prime Minister Theresa May failed to resolve concerns.
The First Minister said she will do “what needs to be done” to protect Scotland’s place in the EU after a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) in Cardiff yesterday which also included the heads of the other UK devolved administrations.
The SNP’s proposals for the Brexit process are to “intensify” between now and the triggering of Article 50 initiating the UK’s departure from the EU. Ms Sturgeon said she “remained to be convinced” that her government’s proposals for a separate Scottish deal on remaining in the EU’s lucrative single market are being taken seriously.
She added: “I came here today determined to find some grounds for compromise, some way of trying to square the circle of the UK-wide vote to leave and the Scottish vote to remain, but I also came with a direct message to the UK government, that so far the compromise or the attempts at compromise have come only from the Scottish Government. There has been no willingness to meet in the middle on the part of the UK government.
“In terms of me getting a sense of whether Scotland is going to be listened to at all, that period between now and triggering of Article 50 is absolutely crucial.
“The next few weeks are not going to resolve every issue of Brexit, but in terms of me being able to judge whether Scotland’s voice is going to be heard at all in this process... the next few weeks are very important.”
Asked if such a timescale could see her announce another vote on independence by March, she added: “I’ll do what needs to be done to protect Scotland’s position. We are running out of time for this process. It can’t go on indefinitely and it won’t go on indefinitely.”
Scottish Secretary David Mundell confirmed “inter-governmental discussions” on proposals brought forward by the devolved administrations would be intensified. “The question is not about can there be differentiation [for Scotland], the question is whether Scotland would benefit from differentiation and that’s what really has got to be at the heart of these discussions,” he said.
“Is the wish for a separate deal for Scotland driven by ideology or is it really based on economic fact and Scotland’s future needs?”
But Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called on Ms Sturgeon to rule out a second referendum. “Once again Nicola Sturgeon has attended a meeting on Brexit and delivered nothing but threats about imposing another independence referendum on the people of Scotland,” she said.