Sturgeon demands control over immigration and trade deals

Nicola Sturgeon has demanded more control over immigration and the ability to strike international deals as part of a more powers package to protect Scotland's interests in Europe.

Nicola Sturgeon has demanded more control over immigration and ability to strike international trade deals. Picture: SWNS

On the opening day of the SNP conference, the SNP leader also announced that a draft independence bill will be published next week.

The First Minister set out her plan for “substantial additional powers” to be transferred to Holyrood as she looked ahead to the Brexit negotiations.

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But she also warned that if she does not get what she wants a second referendum could be held before the completion of the Brexit negotiations in 2019.

She also renewed her attacks on the Conservative Party and claimed that Theresa May had disregarded Scotland’s views on the EU in a way that was reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher.

Addressing the largest ever SNP conference, Ms Sturgeon said: “Over the next few weeks we will table specific proposals to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe and keep us in the single market - even if the rest of the UK decides to leave.

“It’s clear that beyond hard-line rhetoric the UK Government has no detailed plan. So the Scottish Government will set out a plan for Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon said her plan would be a “key element” of the UK’s Article 50 negotiations.

She said her power grab would include all powers in devolved areas which currently lie with the EU.

In addition, the package would include powers to strike international deals, greater powers over immigration and powers to protect the economy and Scottish values.

She also confirmed that the option of a second independence referendum would remain on the table to combat the effects of a hard Brexit.

She warned: “A UK out of the single market - isolated, inward looking, haemorrhaging jobs, investment and opportunities - will not be the same country that Scotland voted to stay part of in 2014.

“If that’s the insecure, unstable prospect we face as part of the UK, then no one will have the right to deny Scotland the chance to choose a better future.

“I am determined that Scotland will have the ability to reconsider the question of independence - and to do so before the UK leaves the EU - if that is necessary to protect our country’s interests.

“So I can confirm today that the Independence Referendum Bill will be published for consultation next week.”

Angus Robertson won the contest to become Ms Sturgeon’s Depute Leader, defeating Tommy Sheppard, Alyn Smith and Chris McEleny.