Nicola Sturgeon: UK faces change or extinction

NICOLA Sturgeon has warned the UK will not survive without a change in the treatment of its “four nations”, in a keynote address to a US audience.

Prime Minister David Cameron meets with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House in May. Picture: Getty Images
Prime Minister David Cameron meets with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House in May. Picture: Getty Images

The First Minister said that Scots are “watching carefully” to see how David Cameron responds in the aftermath of the near-Scottish Tory wipeout in last month’s election, which she said raised questions over his “legitimacy” to govern north of the Border.

And although a second independence referendum is not on the “immediate horizon”, she indicated this could change.

“If the United Kingdom is to remain intact in the years to come, it must demonstrate, and it must demonstrate very clearly, that it can adapt to multi-national and multi-party politics in a far more substantial way than it has often done in the past,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon was speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC yesterday as she rounded off a four-day trip to the US.

“When a government is achieved only by winning seats in one of the four nations of the UK, the question arises what kind of mandate is that?” she said.

The Conservatives have the right to form a government after claiming the majority of seats through the strength of its English vote, said Ms Sturgeon.

But the First Minister added: “The legitimacy of its actions in those other nations comes very clearly into focus.

“As I told the Prime Minister when I met with him after the election, what happens to the future of the United Kingdom now, and in the years ahead, will at least in part depend on how responsively Westminster deals with the reality that, in political as well as constitutional terms, the UK is not a unitary state.

“There is no second Scottish independence referendum on the immediate horizon, of course.”

But she added: “People in Scotland are watching quite carefully to see how David Cameron’s government responds. If it responds well, then the message people will take is that Westminster is responsive, it is adaptable, it can serve Scotland better.

“If it doesn’t then that message will be a very different one.”

For much of the past century, the UK has been a “remarkably centralised state,” she said.

“It’s now increasingly clear that for the United Kingdom as a whole, one size does not fit all and a one size fits all approach is not going to fit the bill for the future,” she added. Ms Sturgeon said there were “four different elections” in the United Kingdom last month.

“Those elections produced very different results and the differences in those results have very significant implications for the UK.”

Ms Sturgeon said that while the SNP won the election in Scotland, Labour won in Wales, the Tories won in England and Northern Ireland has a “very different system” of party politics.

“There was no one uniform result across the United Kingdom,” Ms Sturgeon said. “The multinational United Kingdom voted in four very different ways.”