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Sturgeon plans EU future for Scotland after Brexit

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Sunday vowed to protect Scotland against the “devastating” fallout of Brexit, outlining her negotiating position for her country to remain in the European Union.

Sturgeon said the United Kingdom that Scotland voted to remain a part of in a 2014 independence referendum “does not exist any more” following Thursday’s national referendum to leave the EU.

Britain as a whole voted by 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU but Scotland voted strongly for Britain to remain — by 62 percent to 38 percent.

“What’s going to happen with the UK is that there are going to be deeply damaging and painful consequences… I want to try and protect Scotland from that,” Sturgeon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Within hours of the result on Friday, Sturgeon said a new independence referendum within two years was now “highly likely” and on Saturday she said Scotland was seeking “immediate discussions” with European leaders.

Two new polls taken after Thursday’s vote showed a majority of Scots would now support independence.

A Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times found 52 percent of respondents now wanted to break with the rest of Britain, while 48 percent were opposed.

In a poll for Scotland’s Sunday Post, ScotPulse found that 59 percent would vote for independence.

– ‘Scotland staying’ in EU –

Sturgeon, who is head of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, on Sunday warned that the consequences of dragging Scotland out of the European Union “against her will” would be “devastating”.

Asked what Scotland’s negotiating position with Brussels could be and whether it would have to join the EU as a new member state, she said: “This would not be a decision about Scotland leaving… this would actually be a decision about Scotland staying.”

“Our argument is that we don’t want to leave. It’s not that we want to leave and get back in,” she said.

She also cautioned any future British prime minister against vetoing a new Scottish independence vote.

“I think people in Scotland would find that completely unacceptable,” she said.

Andrew Scott, a professor of European Union studies at the University of Edinburgh, said one way in which Scotland could remain in the EU would be to vote for independence before Britain’s departure is finalised.

It could then define itself as a “successor state” and effectively inherit Britain’s EU membership, including the budget rebate, he argued.

A second option would be for an independent Scotland to leave the EU and then re-apply while in the meantime joining the European Economic Area.

“I think the European Union would have no reason to reject Scotland’s participation or continuing membership of the EU,” Scott said.

EU officials have cautioned in recent days that Scotland may have to apply like other new member states, which are required to adopt the euro.

“I think the circumstances surrounding a second move for Scotland towards independent membership would be quite different from the circumstances that surrounded the debate in 2014,” Scott said.

– ‘I feel more European’ –

In the streets of Edinburgh, many people agreed.

Chris Dougray, a financial advisor, said he was concerned about the impact on investment in Scotland if it is forced out of the European Union.

“If it meant that we stay in the European Union, I would vote for independence, yes,” he said.

Zoe Cuthbert, a 23-year-old student of international law, said: “I feel more European than I do British.

“We’ve clearly made our voice heard that we look more to Europe than we do to the rest of the UK.”

But Evelyn Hutchen, a 68-year-old Glaswegian, said she had voted to leave the European Union.

“Britain isn’t ours any more because of the EU,” she said, adding: “Sometimes I feel they’re stripping the British away from us.”

by Dario Thuburn with Naomi O’Leary in Glasgow
© 2016 AFP