Nicola Sturgeon 'open to negotiation' on her independence referendum plans
Nicola Sturgeon has said she would be open to compromising on her plans for a second independence referendum if the next prime minister comes to the negotiating table.
The First Minister said she will be “open to a negotiation, and in any negotiation you have to be prepared to compromise”.
However, she stressed she would not allow “Scottish democracy to be the prisoner of a UK prime minister”.
It came as Ms Sturgeon launched the second in a series of papers aimed at making the fresh case for Scotland to leave the UK.
The new document focuses on the “key democratic considerations” and argues Scotland faces a “democratic deficit”.
Speaking at Bute House, her official residence in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said the UK is facing a "shift even further to the right” in politics whoever wins the Conservative leadership race.
This would take Westminster “even further away from the mainstream of Scottish opinion and values”, she added, raising fears of possible cuts to public services and “more posturing over Brexit” in the future.
She said: “Scotland is facing yet another prime minister – the fourth in my time as First Minister – that we haven’t voted for, would not vote for, and that will impose policies that we don’t support.”
Ms Sturgeon wants a second independence referendum to be held on October 19 next year.
One of Mr Johnson’s last acts before resigning was to formally refuse her request for a section 30 order to hand Holyrood the relevant powers to hold this, as in 2014.
Ms Sturgeon has asked the UK Supreme Court to rule on whether the Scottish Parliament can legislate for a referendum without the UK Government’s agreement.
Asked if she would welcome the new prime minister with an open mind and if she is willing to compromise on her plans for a second referendum, Ms Sturgeon said: “When we had the agreement in principle with David Cameron [ahead of the 2014 referendum], that we would have a section 30 order to put beyond doubt the ability of the Scottish Parliament to legislate, we had a negotiation.
"And we didn’t get everything we wanted out of that negotiation – nor did David Cameron’s Government.
"I suppose I have been part of a process where compromise has actually been at its heart.
"So in principle, yes, in terms of the detail, I will be open to a negotiation, and in any negotiation you have to be prepared to compromise.
"What I will not compromise on is the principle of people in Scotland getting the opportunity to cast their votes and make their views known on independence.”
She said the “best option” was still to seek agreement with the UK Government.
She added: “If the new prime minister is open to that, I will be open to sitting down and in the spirit of compromise, seeking to come to an agreement.”
However, she stressed: “I’m not going to allow Scottish democracy to be the prisoner of a UK prime minister, and that is a point of principle.”
Asked if the date of a second referendum is up for negotiation, the First Minister said: “If somebody wants to come to me and say look, we’ll have a section 30 order and here’s the negotiation we want to have, of course I will listen to that.”
She insisted Westminster “must not, and will not, be allowed” to block the “right” of Scots “to have our say on independence”.
Papers lodged with the Supreme Court previously showed Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, Scotland’s most senior law officer, was not confident Ms Sturgeon’s indyref2 legislation fell within Holyrood’s competence.
Asked about this, Ms Sturgeon insisted she was not “trying to escape” legal reality, adding: “I’m actually trying, for the benefit of all of Scotland, to get clarity on that.”
If a referendum is denied, the First Minister has set out plans for the next Westminster election to be a “de facto” ballot on the issue.
Elsewhere, she said she would welcome a snap general election if one was called upon the appointment of a new Tory leader.
Ms Sturgeon said: “When you have Labour saying they will never work with the SNP or the SNP is somehow beyond the pale, whether or not they want to acknowledge that, what they are doing is just disrespecting Scotland’s democratic choices.
“In the pursuit of votes from the Tories in England, they’ve effectively given the proverbial two fingers to Scotland.”
Scottish Tory constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said: “This speech was the height of SNP self-indulgence and distraction.
“Nicola Sturgeon is all too happy to shamefully use her podium at Bute House to push her political obsession and have valuable civil servants’ time and resources wasted on working on the SNP’s only priority.
“She knows the vast majority of people in Scotland don’t want another divisive independence referendum next year.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “So far the SNP’s case for independence amounts to a cocktail of wishful thinking and fearmongering.
“Bills are soaring, NHS waiting lists are spiralling and trains are barely running – but Scotland has two governments ignoring these issues to stoke division, play political games, and make impossible promises.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said Ms Sturgeon “has absolutely nothing new to say when it comes to her plot to break up the UK”.
She added: "The Scottish public will have looked at this stunt and concluded it was a complete waste of time and resources.
"This announcement was merely a run-out of all the usual grievances aimed at stoking up resentment and division.
"It is beyond hypocritical for the First Minister to talk about a democratic deficit when she ignored the 2014 result from the moment it was cast and continually dismisses polling which shows people simply don’t want another referendum.”
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