By Lucinda Cameron, Press Association Scotland
Brexit has “materially strengthened” the case for Scottish independence, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said Scotland’s interests are being “completely ignored and sidelined” and that what has happened in the last two years has reinforced the case for it to leave the UK.
Ms Sturgeon would not be drawn on timings around an independence referendum, saying she would wait until this phase of the Brexit process concludes.
However she said there is a mandate to have an independence referendum within this term of the Holyrood parliament and that “there is every right on the Scottish Government to fulfil that mandate”.
Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland, she said: “Everything that has happened over the past couple of years, from Scotland facing exit from the EU against our will to every reasonable attempt at compromise to protect Scotland’s interests by the Scottish Government being spurned, to the powers of the Scottish Parliament being eroded, to the UK Government even taking the Scottish Government to court, all of that has strengthened and reinforced the case for Scotland to be independent, because these are not just academic arguments, all of this will have a material impact on Scotland’s economy and well-being for decades to come.”
She added: “The case for independence is materially strengthened from an already strong base in 2014 because of all of the experience of Scotland in the last two years.
“We were told in 2014 that it was voting for independence that would put in peril our membership of the European Union.
“Because we didn’t vote for independence, we now not just find ourselves facing exit, the voice and the interests of Scotland are being completely ignored and sidelined.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that the UK will be in “uncharted territory” if her deal is rejected in next week’s crunch vote. expected on January 15.
Ms Sturgeon said there is “clearly no majority” to crash out of the EU without a deal and that holding another referendum on the issue should be the alternative.
She said: “I hope the meaningful vote does go ahead next week so that MPs can once and for all say that they don’t support the Withdrawal Agreement, and then the House of Commons can coalesce behind the alternative, and in my view that alternative now should be to have another EU referendum.
“I think we will need to see the Withdrawal Agreement voted on in order for MPs to coalesce behind an alternative.
“I don’t take for granted that there is a majority for that, but the SNP will be part of building that majority and if we can get Labour to finally come off the fence then we will be closer to building that majority.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said there is no appetite among the people of Scotland for another independence referendum.
He said: “One of the experiences of Brexit has been just how difficult and painful it can be to break away from a union, even one that has been place for just 40 years. A union that has been in place for 300 years would, in my view, cause considerable economic disruption and there is no appetite from the people of Scotland for it.
“So I think the First Minister should take the earliest opportunity to rule out a second independence referendum.”
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Today Scots are heading back to work at the beginning of a new year, but Nicola Sturgeon is stuck in the past.
“As at the start of 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 her priority is to rerun the referendum of 2014. People across the country will correctly be thinking, ‘There she goes again’.”
He added: “The best new year’s resolution the SNP could make would be to drop the independence obsession and concentrate on delivering for the people of Scotland.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, accused the First Minister of trying to “weaponise Brexit”.
“Nicola Sturgeon couldn’t be more wrong,” said Ms Nash.
“Brexit has weakened the case for independence, not strengthened it. The process has proved how incredibly difficult it is to leave a union between nations.
“Nicola Sturgeon is trying to weaponise Brexit in a desperate bid to boost support for independence.
“But the majority of people in Scotland know that we are better off together, with a shared culture and history we can build our future on.
“The First Minister should take the threat of a second referendum off the table and get on with the day job of fixing our schools, hospitals and railways.”