Scotland Election 2016

Sturgeon: Independence poll 'highly likely' if UK leaves EU

Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption Ms Sturgeon was quizzed on the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme

There would "almost certainly" be a second independence referendum if the UK votes to leave the EU and Scotland does not, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The SNP leader said she hoped the situation did not arise, but said there would be "overwhelming" support for a second poll in the event of a Brexit.

The power to call a referendum is reserved, so any new vote would need permission from Westminster.

Opposition parties said Scotland should "move on" from the issue.

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Ms Sturgeon said that she would be "campaigning very hard" for a Remain vote in Scotland, but she said it was "very highly likely" there would be a fresh independence referendum if Scotland voted to remain while the UK voted to leave.

She said it would be a "democratic outrage" if Scotland were "dragged out of Europe against our will", and said there would be "overwhelming demand" for a fresh referendum.

'The EU issue'

She said: "It would depend on circumstances, on the narrowness of the results overall.

"I'm hoping the scenario doesn't arise, which is why I'm reluctant to get dragged into it. But given the centrality of the EU issue to the Scottish independence referendum and the fact those campaigning then for the No vote said we'd get chucked out of Europe if we voted Yes, to now get dragged out of Europe against our will I think would lead to many people saying it's time to think again.

"If we are taken out of the EU against our will I will want to give the people of Scotland the opportunity to protect our EU membership by looking again at the issue of independence."

Pressed on whether this meant she planned to hold a referendum as soon as polls show she is likely to win it, Ms Sturgeon said it would be "democratic" to let the people of Scotland decide, adding that it would be an "affront to democracy" should this be blocked.

Image caption Ms Dugdale said she would vote no "in every scenario"

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who previously said it was "not unconceivable" that she could vote for Scottish independence in the event of the UK leaving the EU, insisted on the same programme that she would reject independence "in every scenario".

She said: "I was very proud to vote No, and I would do so again.

"There will be a very clear commitment in the Scottish Labour manifesto, that we oppose a second independence referendum.

"In every scenario I would vote No again, because I believe the economic case for independence has fallen apart."

Ms Dugdale would not be drawn on whether Labour MSPs would be allowed to campaign for independence, saying Scotland needed to move on from the issue.

She also insisted she would not resign as leader if the Conservatives beat Labour into second place and said she was aiming to win May's election, adding: "It's not enough to aspire to lead the opposition."

'Respect the result'

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said she did not think there should be a second referendum.

Speaking to Sky News, Ms Davidson said Ms Sturgeon was seeking a second referendum "as soon as she thinks she can win one".

She said: "I'm sorry, constitutional politics doesn't work like that. I for one will be standing in her way and saying I want to speak up for the two million people who voted to remain part of the United Kingdom and to stand up for the decision she made, the agreement she signed with the UK government that she'd respect the result.

"Starting a new campaign for independence doesn't sound like respect for me.

"This was all discussed at the time of the independence referendum. And I don't think there will be a British exit from Europe - I think we've seen this week that as people have turned their attention to it in other parts of the UK, the gap is growing for that."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson have both called for Scotland to "move on" from the issue of independence

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said the SNP "should not be jumping at any opportunity to find ways to justify a second independence referendum".

He said: "We had one of the biggest democratic experiences in our lifetime, with a massive turnout, and people said very clearly that we want to stay in the United Kingdom.

"The SNP said they would respect that result, but are planning a new referendum campaign after the summer. I think we need to move on and focus on the next five years, on making Scotland the best again.

"The SNP seem to be stuck in the past, reliving the argument about independence over and over again. Lets just move on."

'Stronger position'

Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie said "many people" would call for a second referendum in the scenario described by Ms Sturgeon.

However, he said the best chance of winning a new referendum would be "in the context of us all voting to stay in".

He said: "If we vote to stay in the EU, I think we'll be in a far stronger position to continue to build the case for independence.

"If we care about Scottish independence, if we think the case for Scottish independence is still strong, the clearest way to make a context for us to win that referendum is for us to vote to stay in the European Union.

"We should only have the referendum when the people of Scotland are ready for it."

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