The Scottish Government is making contingency plans to “protect” its relationship with the EU in the event of a UK-wide Brexit vote next week against the wishes of Scots, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.
It came as rival MSPs on the Leave and Remain camps clashed when the issue was raised at Holyrood today, amid claims it breached strict “purdah” rules and abused Parliamentary resources.
The First Minister said “all options” are currently being considered by ministers amid warnings that up to 300,000 jobs could be lost in Scotland after a Brexit vote.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs she “very much hopes” that a Brexit vote does not come about, but the latest polls today show the Leave camp is pulling ahead. This is contrary to the position in Scotland where voters are poised to resoundingly back Remain.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs at First Ministers Questions today: “As First Minister my duty is to seek to protect Scotland’s interest in all circumstances and therefore I am ensuring that appropriate planning for all eventualities is being undertaken by the Scottish Government.
If Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the European Union against our democratically expressed will then all options to protect our relationship with Europe and the European Union will require to be considered.Nicola Sturgeon
“If Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the European Union against our democratically expressed will then all options to protect our relationship with Europe and the European Union will require to be considered.”
The issue was raised by Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, but prompted an angry reaction from Brexit supporting MSPs Margaret Mitchell of the Tories and Labour’s Elaine Smith who claimed it breached Holyrood rules on purdah. But Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said he had considered the issue and believed the exchanges had not abused the use of Parliamentary resources to promote either side.
Ms Dugdale said: “Next Thursday is about securing hundreds of thousands of jobs, protecting the rights of workers, showing the world the type of country we want to be. So can I ask the First Minister when it comes to issues like terrorism, climate change, the refugee crisis, does she share my support for the principle of working together with the other nations of the world?”
The First Minister said that although she believes in Scottish independence, countries must work together on these issues to “make all of us stronger and safer.”
She added: “There are right now in Scotland more than 300,000 jobs that are associated either directly or indirectly with Scotland’s access to the single market. In addition more than 40% of Scotland’s international exports go to countries within the single market and of the 2000 foreign owned companies in Scotland, 40% are owned by firms that are based in other European countries.
“These are all positive reasons related to the jobs and the livelioods of thousands of people across Scotland for my conclusion that Scotland’s continuing relationship with Europe is absolutely vital.”