Nicola Sturgeon seeks Holyrood backing for Scots EU deal

Nicola Sturgeon will seek cross-party support from MSPs at Holyrood today to strengthen her hand in talks with EU leaders to secure Scotland's place in the bloc after last week's Brexit vote.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets with Irish President Michael Higgins yesterday to discuss Scotlands position over the EU. Picture: PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets with Irish President Michael Higgins yesterday to discuss Scotlands position over the EU. Picture: PA

The First Minister will make an emergency statement in the Scottish Parliament today after pledging to explore all options to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU.

She held talks with Irish President Michael Higgins yesterday and further talks are planned this week with political leaders in Gibraltar.

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Scotland voted overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU last week with 62 per cent support for Remain across all of the country’s 32 council areas.

Ms Sturgeon has said it would be “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland to be removed from the EU against its will and has already starting preparing legislation for a second independence
referendum as a potential way of securing the country’s place in Europe. But her motion at Holyrood today stops short of calling for a second vote on the constitution.

Instead, she will call on support for her talks “for protecting Scotland’s relationship with the EU, Scotland’s place in the single market”.

She added: “I am now determined to explore every avenue to retain Scotland’s EU status and today’s parliamentary debate is a vital part of that process.

“I am specifically asking Parliament to strengthen my hand by giving me a mandate to pursue discussions about protecting Scotland’s place in the EU with the UK Government, other devolved administrations, EU institutions and member states.

“It is now crucial that our national Parliament speaks with as strong and united a voice as possible on this issue.

“Today’s debate is among the most important in Holyrood’s history – and I want to see it result in broad cross-party support for our efforts.”

Opposition leader Ruth Davidson has tabled an amendment at Holyrood opposing any move to call a second independence referendum.

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“We would caution the SNP against using these negotiations to further their aim of independence,” she said.

”Whatever peoples’ views about last week’s decision, the truth is that we do not solve our departure from the European Union by walking out of our own Union of nations as well. Scotland’s trade to the rest of the UK far outstrips that to the EU.”

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is backing the First Minister’s position today and warned that the decision to leave the EU will cause “untold damage” to Scotland’s economy. “Every possible avenue must be explored to not just mitigate the impact of Brexit, but to strengthen our ties with our European neighbours. The protection of jobs and workers’ rights must be the priority,” Ms Dugdale said.

“The majority of Scotland’s voters backed remaining in the EU and it’s vital that our parliament gives voice to that position.”

The Greens will also support the motion after a petition launched by the party after last week’s result gathered almost 40,000 signatures. It calls for Holyrood to examine and exhaust every option for continuing Scotland’s close ties with Europe.