Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon accused of 'desperate' arguments over Euro claims as she challenges Douglas Ross over referendum

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “desperate” arguments as she defied claims an independent Scotland would need to accept the Euro to join the European Union.

Ms Sturgeon issued the defence at First Minister’s Questions [FMQs] after four separate EU sources told The Times that any Scottish application for membership would be dismissed without a pledge to sign up to the Euro.

Ms Sturgeon’s Government last week published a paper on the economic and currency policy of an independent Scotland, saying the country would continue to use sterling until a new pound was established.

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But speaking to the newspaper, an unnamed EU source said it would be “no euro, no entry” for an independent Scotland, with another three reported to have backed the view.

Nicola Sturgeon speaks at First Minister's Questions. Picture: Scottish Parliament

Asked about the claims by Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross, Ms Sturgeon named countries including Sweden, Bulgaria, Czechia and Poland among those inside the EU that did not use the Euro.

And she challenged Mr Ross to agree to a second independence referendum to properly debate the issue.

In a noisy exchange at FMQs, Mr Ross asked: “Who’s lying to the Scottish people, the European Union or Nicola Sturgeon?”

Responding, the First Minister quoted a number of sources, including former prime minister David Cameron and the ex-president of the European Commission, as holding a different view to that of the sources quoted.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andrew Milligan - WPA Pool/Getty Images

She said: “Many countries in the European Union still use their own currency.

“Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden – a member state since 1995 still uses its own currency.”

She added: "Douglas Ross doesn’t want to listen to any of that. I know he often flip-flops on whether he agrees with Tory leaders or not, but clearly he’s now disagreeing with David Cameron as well.”

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The First Minister went on to say she “welcomed” such a debate on the currency of an independent Scotland, challenging Mr Ross to “have a referendum and let’s have these debates with the Scottish people”.

Mr Ross responded by saying: “Desperate stuff from Nicola Sturgeon, because of course what she didn’t say … it is a criteria for countries entering into, not countries in the European Union, to join up to the Euro.

"Nicola Sturgeon has been pretending that her plan to break up the United Kingdom would mean Scotland re-joins the EU, but that’s not true. The reality, according to these multiple European Union officials, is if Scotland separated from the United Kingdom, we’d be refused entry unless it agreed to join the Euro.”

The Scottish Tories leader added: “What is utterly pathetic and desperate … the Scottish Government has poured resources and taxpayers’ money into a economic paper that the EU rubbished in less than a fortnight.”

Mr Ross went on to attack the independence paper more widely, saying it would result in “permanent chaos”.

He said: “The First Minister’s plan to escape the temporary issues of the past month is to create permanent chaos with jobs, mortgages, pensions and public services.

“[Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak is fixing recent mistakes – the First Minister would wreck our economy for good.”

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He claimed independence would result in “permanent austerity”, “permanent higher taxes” and “permanent economic chaos”.

Ms Sturgeon responded: “It is because I am focusing on people, businesses and communities and what is best for them – their wellbeing and their prosperity – that I want to see Scotland become independent, in charge of our own affairs and our own destiny, not continuing to be dragged down the wrong paths by Westminster governments.”

The debate around independence came as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar separately challenged Ms Sturgeon on fresh accident-and-emergency (A&E) figures, obtained by the party through Freedom of Information requests.

Some 4,069 patients waited more than 24 hours to be seen at emergency departments in Scotland in the past year, with others waiting up to two days for emergency care, figures show.

The figures for the year to September 25 show 859 people waited more than 36 hours to be assessed and either admitted, treated or discharged in A&E departments.

Meanwhile, 243 people waited more than 48 hours to be seen.

Mr Sarwar described the figures as “shocking”, saying A&E departments were in “disarray” as he urged Ms Sturgeon to admit her Government and health secretary Humza Yousaf were out of their depth in tackling the crisis.

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He said: “First Minister, I have come here week after week asking you to take this crisis seriously.

“So don’t point to announcements made last year. Don’t tell us how much you care. Don’t repeat how unacceptable you think it is. Tell us what you’re going to do to fix it and by when.”

In a Scottish Parliament debate on Wednesday, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie branded Mr Yousaf the worst health secretary since devolution.

On Thursday, Mr Sarwar said: “The First Minister should reflect on the fact that we’re talking about people’s lives here.

“Lives are being lost because of the failure in our A&Es and the failures of this Government.

“This is the worst it has ever been. How bad does it have to get?”

Ms Sturgeon cited progress in the most recent A&E wait times, where a slight improvement was recorded in the week to October 16 compared to the week before.

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The number of people seen in four hours increased to 65.3 per cent – up from 64.2 per cent – and those waiting more than eight and 12 hours also improved.

She hit out at Labour’s failure to mention the Covid-19 impact on the health service.

She said: “There is much, much work to be done. We are going into a very challenging winter period, which is why hospitals across the country, health boards across the country, are working hard to plan for winter, and this Government will continue to support them.”

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