Nicola Sturgeon dismisses critics of French trip as ‘parochial’

Nicola Sturgeon has accused critics of her international trips of “the worst possible parochialism and provincialism”.

Nicola Sturgeon will open a new Scottish Government office on Tuesday

The Scottish First Minister is in Paris to open a new Scottish Government office following a five-day tour of North America and has defended herself from criticism that the trips were a “jaunt”.

“My opponents back home seen to have descended into the worst possible parochialism and provincialism,” Ms Sturgeon told BBC Scotland.

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On Monday, Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said: “Another week and another jaunt abroad for the First Minister.

“Meanwhile, back home, we have a health service on its knees, our schools are struggling, and councils are toiling to balance their budgets due to SNP cuts.”

Ms Sturgeon will open a new Scottish Government office on Tuesday. Speaking in Paris, she said: “First ministers have always, as part of the job we’re elected to do, gone out to sell Scotland internationally.”

She added: “France is Scotland’s third biggest export partner - it’s really important that we underline the importance of that relationship.

“That’s why we have opened a new Scottish Government hub here in Paris.

“It’s never been more vital to get that message across.

“Notwithstanding Brexit, which we regret and which the EU regrets, there’s a real desire to strengthen those relationships.”

After the official opening Ms Sturgeon will speak before the French Parliament’s 73-member foreign affairs committee at the Assemblee Nationale.

“For me, this is one of the saddest parts of Brexit,” the First Minister will say in her speech to the committee.

“The UK Government is proclaiming the end of free movement as a victory - instead, it is a self-defeating measure. It removes opportunity from millions of people.

“It is an approach which is especially damaging to Scotland. Without freedom of movement there is a danger that our population will start to decline.

“We could face workforce shortages in rural areas, in our universities, in our care and health services. European nationals are not only very welcome in Scotland, they are crucial to our well-being.

“All of this is down to the red lines that the UK Government has chosen to draw.

“Given the existence of those red lines, I understand why the European Union believes that the deal agreed in November is the best which could be achieved.

“I appreciate that many people in France and across the EU would like the UK to just get on with it. But no government of Scotland which has the interests of this and future generations at heart could possibly support the current deal.”