Nicola Sturgeon has reaffirmed her intention to call another referendum on Scottish independence once the final details of Brexit have been worked out.
The First Minister used an appearance on a US talk show over the weekend to declare her belief that a majority of Scots would back a Yes vote in a possible IndyRef2 within the next five years.
The timing of another constitutional vote has the subject of intense debate among grassroots SNP members and senior politicians in recent months, with some urging the party leader to stage a plebiscite on the issue this year, while others urge a more cautious approach.
Ms Sturgeon was interviewed by Michel Martin on the CNN current affairs show Amanpour & Company. Asked if she believed that Scotland would be applying to the EU as an independent nation in the next three to five years, she replied: “I would love to think so and I think it will.
“I’m not going to put a particular timescale on it right now but in the not too distant future, I think Scotland will be an independent country looking to join the EU and looking to take a seat the United Nations.”
The First Minister said she was confident more Scots would back independence if a re-run of the 2014 referendum were held as the reality of Brexit became apparent.
“We’re in this position because we’re not independent,” she said. “That democratic deficit, that Scotland faces as being part of the UK, undoubtedly makes many people want to look again at the issue of Scotland becoming an independent country.
“I think there will be another independence referendum. And when that happens, I think Scotland this time will vote to be independent. It will be a way of us protecting our place in Europe and make sure the decisions that influence the direction of our country are taken in Scotland not in London.
“The timing of that is yet to be determined - obviously, there is a lot of concern about the Brexit process. As First Minister, I’ve said that I will set out my view on the timing of another independence referendum in the next few weeks once we see how this Brexit process plays out.”
The SNP leader explained her official visit to the US was in part to remind the world Scotland “remained open for business”.
She explained: “It’s no secret that I’m not aligned politically with the current president of the United States. We disagree on many things. But Scotland and the US have a very strong and long-standing relationship, and that relationship endures regardless of who occupies the office of president or of first minister.
“The timing of my visit is more to do with developments in the UK. I want to make sure the rest of the world knows, not with standing Brexit, Scotland remains open for business. Scotland didn’t vote to leave the EU, that’s something happening to us against our will, but we want to make sure that other countries know that Scotland remains open and welcoming - we want to attract businesses and individuals to come and live and work in our country.”
Scottish Conservatives chief whip Maurice Golden said: “Nicola Sturgeon took a week away from government business to bang the drum for independence, and that’s completely unacceptable.
“The First Minister was supposed to use this dubious trip to promote Scotland’s business and economy.
“Instead, she spent her time lecturing America about her selfish plans to break up Britain.”