Nicola Sturgeon: Election may not have been indyref2 rejection

Nicola Sturgeon has cast doubt over whether Scots rejected a second referendum in last week's general election by branding the claims 'an overly-simplistic analysis'.
Nicola Sturgeon with the 35 SNP MPs elected to the House of Commons at last week's election. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty ImagesNicola Sturgeon with the 35 SNP MPs elected to the House of Commons at last week's election. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon with the 35 SNP MPs elected to the House of Commons at last week's election. Picture: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The First Minister is currently “reflecting” on her plans for another ballot on leaving the UK after the result in Scotland last Thursday saw pro-union parties take almost two-thirds of the popular vote, while the SNP lost 21 seats.

But Ms Sturgeon stopped short of opponents’ demands to take a second referendum “off the table” as she welcomed her cohort of 35 MPs at Westminster on Monday.

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Asked about whether or not the election result showed that her call for a second independence poll was wrong, Ms Sturgeon said: “I have said I will reflect on the outcome of the election and I will do that carefully and in discussion with colleagues across the SNP.

“I won’t do it to a timetable dictated by headline-hungry journalists or based on any overly simplistic analysis of the election.”

The First Minister has previously said that she believed many Scots who backed independence may have voted for Jeremy Corbyn last week. She has also pledged to set out her position on a second referendum in the coming days.

Speaking on Friday, she said “Undoubtedly the issue of an independence referendum was a factor in this election result, but I think there were other factors in this election result as well.”

It followed remarks by deputy leader John Swinney who said the prospect of another vote on independence was a “significant motivator” in the election result and that the party had be “attentive to that point”.

But speaking at Westminster, the SNP leader added: “I have heard lots of analysis of the election results; some of them I agree with, some of them I don’t agree with. Many of them are overly simplistic. I’m going to take time, I’m going to reflect, I’m going to discuss with colleagues not just here with the Westminster Group but in Holyrood and across the SNP.”

She pledged to set out her views “when I’m ready” and this would be based on “what is right for the country”.

We are in a radically different situation, particularly around Brexit now, and all of us have to reflect on that as wider considerations; that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

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The SNP leader demanded a second referendum after Scotland voted to Remain in the EU but the weight of votes south of the Border swung the result in favour of Leave. The Scottish Parliament backed a second referendum in March after the SNP and Greens combined to push it through.

Ms Sturgeon also called for the Brexit talks process to be halted in the aftermath of last week’s vote which saw the Tories lose their Commons majority.

A UK-wide consensus should be adopted, the SNP leader argued, including a “four nation” approach to the Brexit talks, to allow the devolved governments a greater say.

But this has been ruled out by the UK government

Ms Sturgeon added: “No 10 has been behaving to the bemusement of everybody across the country as if nothing has changed in the election; everything has changed.

“It’s no longer acceptable for the Prime Minister and the Government to try to operate the way they were doing before the election. They asked for a mandate for a hard Brexit and they failed to get that mandate. So hard Brexit is now off the table and has to be off the table.

“But also the idea that Brexit can continue to be cooked up by a Tory cabal is not acceptable. There have to be more voices involved and there has to be a fundamentally different approach and as the third biggest party in the House of Commons that’s what these MPs will be working to secure.”

Membership of the European single market and the customs union must be at the heart of a new approach, with an immediate guarantee for the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, according to Ms Sturgeon who insisted that a hard Brexit was “no longer viable” and urged ministers to change their approach.

She said: “The idea that the UK led by this Prime Minister and this Government can just blunder into negotiations starting one week today, I just don’t think it’s a credible proposition.”

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There is growing speculation that the State Opening of Parliament could be delayed after the Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to confirm it would go ahead as scheduled on 19 June.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Now that the Queen’s Speech has been postponed, questions have been raised about what has been cooked up behind closed doors and is it possible for this Prime Minister – notwithstanding what she said on Friday – to put together a Government that is functional and sustainable.

“It is an opportunity, perhaps – I know the arithmetic, I am not blind to the hurdles – but it perhaps means an opportunity for a progressive alternative to a Tory/DUP government.”