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Independence referendum must be 'legal and legitimate', Nicola Sturgeon emphasises in Brexit day speech

Nicola Sturgeon Brexit day speech in Edinburgh - Image credit: Jenni Davidson/Holyrood

Independence referendum must be 'legal and legitimate', Nicola Sturgeon emphasises in Brexit day speech

A referendum on independence must be “legal and legitimate” so that it is recognised internationally, Nicola Sturgeon has emphasised in a Brexit day speech in Edinburgh.

Underlining that the best way forward was through agreeing a transfer of powers from Westminster, Sturgeon said they must focus on “building and winning the political case for independence”.

If she thought there was an easier way to independence, she would have taken it, Sturgeon stated.

Speaking on the day Britain leaves the EU, the First Minister said this was a “fundamental change in Scotland’s constitution” and that from now on the only way Scotland could be a member of the EU was through independence.

She said: “What we in the independence movement must not do is allow a sense of frustration – understandable though it is – to take us down dead ends or weaken our sense of purpose.

“And we must not let the Tories turn a positive, persuasive and invigorating discussion about the best future for our country, into an arid and bitter argument about process and procedure.

“And this isn’t caution talking. It’s realism.

“For me to pretend that there are shortcuts or clever wheezes that can magically overcome the obstacles we face would be to do the independence cause a disservice.

“My job instead is to offer a path that can deliver independence.

“To achieve independence, a referendum, whenever it happens - whether it is this year as I want, or after the next Scottish election – must be legal and legitimate. That is a simple fact.

“It must demonstrate clearly that there is majority support for independence. 

“And its legality must be beyond doubt. Otherwise the outcome, even if successful, would not be recognised by other countries.

“And the best way to achieve that, even though it may not be ideal, is to reach agreement with UK Government on a transfer of power to the Scottish Parliament, just as we did for 2014.”

Although emphasising that the best way was to get UK Government agreement, Sturgeon appeared to soften on the idea of a consultative referendum run by the Scottish Parliament without Westminster permission.

She said she wasn’t “ruling it out” if the UK Government continued to refuse to allow a second independence referendum, but she added that the outcome of that would be “uncertain” as it could be challenged legally and it could just as easily set them back as move the cause forward.

Sturgeon reiterated that she was ruling out an illegal or wildcat referendum, but that the possibility of the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Act of holding a “consultative” referendum had not been legally tested.

In terms of practical actions, Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Government would now ask the Electoral Commission to re-test the proposed referendum question.

They will also invite Scotland’s elected representatives – council leaders, MSPs, MPs and former MEPs – to endorse a new “claim of right” through a constitutional convention.

To help the public can make “informed choices about the future of the country”, the Scottish Government will publish a series of ‘New Scotland’ papers outlining with ideas of what an independent Scotland could look like in areas such as climate, tackling poverty and the economy.

To persuade people who are undecided would require “open and frank discussion about what the people across our country want for themselves, their families and communities, and how best to achieve it” as well as “patience and respect”, she added.

However, she ended on a confident note, suggesting independence has “never been closer”.

“We have never been stronger,” she said.

“We are now part of a wider, vibrant Yes movement. And independence has never been closer.

“It is our strength that will make it a reality.

“The strength of our arguments. The strength of our unity and our commitment to the cause. The strength of our values.

“The strength of our vision of an open, progressive, outward looking Scotland for all who live here, no matter where they come from.

“An independent Scotland will be born from the strength of our capacity to persuade.”

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