Scotland politics

Nicola Sturgeon: 'Project Farce has begun'

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon are on opposing sides in the EU debate

Nicola Sturgeon has accused Boris Johnson of being responsible for the start of "Project Farce" as the fallout continues from last week's Brexit vote.

She was responding to Mr Johnson stating that "Project Fear was over" - a reference to the supposed "scare tactics" used by the Remain side.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU but the UK as a whole voted to leave.

Ms Sturgeon is to ask Holyrood on Tuesday to give her a mandate to negotiate with the EU.

Speaking as he left his London home, Mr Johnson said: "It is clear now that Project Fear is over, there is not going to be an emergency budget, people's pensions are safe, the pound is stable, the markets are stable, I think that's all very good."

Ms Sturgeon responded by tweeting: "Indeed, Boris. Project Farce has now begun - and you are largely responsible".

Image copyright Twitter

The first minister will make a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the outcome of the EU referendum on Tuesday, which will be followed by a debate on the implications of the result for Scotland.

The proposed motion for debate welcomes the "overwhelming vote of the people of Scotland to remain in the European Union".

And it mandates the Scottish government to have discussions with the UK government, other devolved administrations, the EU institutions and individual member states to try and secure Scotland's relationship with the EU and its place in the single market.

In other developments:

Ms Sturgeon said the debate would be one of the most important in Holyrood's history, and that it was crucial for the parliament to "speak with as strong and united a voice as possible" on the issue.

She met the Irish president Michael Higgins on Monday as she seeks to build bridges with EU countries following the referendum.

Mr Higgins is on a three-day trip to Scotland, which will also see him address the Scottish Parliament.

On Friday, Ms Sturgeon said a second independence referendum was "highly likely" and at the weekend raised the possibility of the Scottish Parliament blocking the UK's departure from Europe if MSPs were required to give formal backing for Brexit.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Sturgeon met Irish president Michael Higgins in Edinburgh
Image copyright PA
Image caption Support for the EU was stronger in Scotland, London and Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK

Three opinion polls carried out since Thursday's referendum have suggested that the result has boosted support for Scottish independence, with support put at 52%, 54% and 59%.

David Mundell, the UK government's Scottish secretary, said "of course" there could be a second independence referendum, but he did not believe there should be one.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Mundell said the case for remaining in the UK was as "compelling" today as it had been in 2014.

But he sidestepped the question of whether Westminster would grant the powers for a second independence referendum to be held.

His Conservative colleague Dominic Raab has said that the UK government would not make a decision on granting a second independence referendum until the UK's exit from the EU was granted.

And Mr Johnson, who led the Leave campaign and is favourite to replace David Cameron as prime minister, has claimed there is a lack of appetite for another independence vote in Scotland.

Mr Mundell said: "I think it is very, very unhelpful that at this moment, where we do look to bring stability, that virtually the first thing that is mentioned by the first minister, before the ink had even dried on the declaration of the result of the EU referendum, is independence.

"I think a lot of people in Scotland will have taken a step back and think that this is just opportunism in terms of trying to exploit a situation of uncertainty to push the independence agenda.

"Let us focus our efforts on getting the best deal for Scotland. I agree with the first minister if that is her desired outcome. Let's negotiate the best possible deal for Scotland in these circumstances, but let's not get bogged down in what is the most divisive issue in Scotland, an independence referendum."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Daily Record newspaper - which published the Vow ahead of the 2014 referendum - has been among those calling for a second independence vote
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many pro-independence activists are already gearing up for the possibility of a second referendum

Mr Mundell also said that the most recent opinion polls, which was published in the Daily Record on Monday morning, suggested that the majority of people polled did not want a second referendum - although 54% would back independence if a vote was held.

And he has revealed that a new unit has been established in the Cabinet Office to start intensive civil service work on the UK departure from the European Union, and that the Scottish government will be involved in the negotiations.

Mr Mundell has also said he would not be backing Mr Johnson for the next Conservative leader.

On Sunday, Ms Sturgeon said if the Scottish Parliament has to give its consent to the UK's departure from Europe she would "of course" consider asking MSPs not to do this.

'Clear course'

Former first minister Alex Salmond told Good Morning Scotland that this would not be a veto because Westminster can override a block from Holyrood under clause 28 of the Scotland Act.

He also told the show: "I think Nicola is playing an absolute blinder. She's the only politician over the last few days who's looked like she knows what she's doing and is setting a clear course. She's taking things step by step as indeed she should.

"The negotiations she's opening across Europe with European leaders and institutions while Westminster's in chaos are to try and establish how do you secure Scotland's position within Europe.

"If the answer to that is the only way you can do that is through independence then she brings the independence referendum off the table and very much on the cards."