Sophy Ridge on Sunday Interview with Nicola Sturgeon First Minister Scotland


SOPHY RIDGE: Well whatever happens in the Westminster parliament in the next few days and months, the SNPs 35 MPs could prove crucial. Joining us now from Glasgow is the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, thank you for being on the programme.

NICOLA STURGEON: You’re welcome.

SR: Now it has been another difficult week for the Prime Minister, it feels like we are saying that every week at the minute. It looks almost impossible for the government to get its Brexit deal through, Labour haven’t committed to calling a confidence motion in the government so will the SNP?

NICOLA STURGEON: We think Labour should table a confidence motion and I said last week if it does so, the SNP will support that. I think it is possible that a confidence motion right now could succeed, this is a government that is weak and unstable and becoming more weak and unstable with every day that passes but even if it didn’t pass and succeed at the first time of asking, there is another merit in having a confidence motion called just now because it would help clarify Labour’s position. Labour’s position right now is that it won’t back a second EU referendum until it has tried and failed to trigger a general election but if it won’t try to trigger a general election then we’re in this Catch-22 position and it seems to me right now that Labour is as much a barrier to making progress on Brexit as the Tories are so we think there should be a confidence motion and we’ll continue to talk to other opposition parties. There should also be a bringing of the vote on the Prime Minister’s deal this week. The Prime Minister simply can’t be allowed to just play for time and run the clock down, we don’t have time to waste anymore so we need clarity, we need things to move on and frankly it is time for a new approach. This is a pretence by the Prime Minister that her deal somehow can be salvaged and we’ll get some miraculous last minute change of heart by the European Union. It’s not going to happen and the more time that’s wasted right now, the worse for everybody potentially.

SR: So if you think there should be a confidence motion, why don’t you simply call one?

NICOLA STURGEON: Well we will continue to consider that as an option but as you probably know, the SNP could table a motion but the only party that is guaranteed to have that motion called for debate in the House of Commons and have a vote on it, is the official opposition party so … We can have a motion and we may well do it but we actually want to bring this to a vote and therefore it seems to me that Labour doing it is the best and in fact the only guaranteed way of doing that and it stands to reason, in fact this is a pretty obvious point that I’m about to make, that without the support of the official opposition parties then clearly that’s not going to succeed. So let me be very clear, the SNP will keep our options open and if Labour won’t act then we are prepared to act but it is Labour that can bring a motion that is guaranteed to be debated and voted on and I’m sure most people would agree that is the most sensible way to proceed. If it doesn’t succeed – and I don't think we should assume it won’t succeed given the incompetence of this government, then at least it gets Labour into a position where they can take a decision on whether or not they back a second EU referendum because it seems increasingly obvious to me that that’s the best way and perhaps the only way of making progress and resolving this whole sorry mess.

SR: Okay, well let’s talk about the idea of a second referendum because there is lots of chatter about the possibility of a second vote in Westminster at the minute. We have reports that some of Theresa May’s allies are sort of secretly preparing for one, would the SNP support it – I’m guessing that you would – and what should be on the ballot paper?

NICOLA STURGEON: Well remain should be on the ballot paper. I’ve read reports in the last few days that Theresa May might or might be forced by colleagues that she should propose a referendum with her deal or no deal on the ballot paper and I think most people would take the view that democratically that wouldn’t be an acceptable choice. I think there should be a second referendum that gives people across the UK the opportunity to decide, given everything that we now know after the last two and a half years, to remain in the EU and to answer your initial question, yes, the SNP would support that.

SR: If there was to be a second referendum, would there need to be some sort of safeguard in place to dictate what happens if Scotland, as it did last time, voted in a different way to other parts of the UK?

NICOLA STURGEON: Yes, we would propose that, as we did the last time. We put forward the proposal the last time that the UK could only leave the UK if all four nations of the UK voted for that and that would have been a recognition that the UK is not a unitary state, it is a relationship of four nations and if we cast our mind back to the Scottish independence referendum, we were told that it was a relationship of equals so the SNP would certainly make those proposals but whatever the constitutional future of Scotland is and, as you know, I hope and expect that will be as an independent country, but it makes sense for Scotland to have the whole of the UK within the European Union so the most important thing I think now, given the mess that has been created over the last two and a half years, is that people all over the UK get the opportunity to change their mind and in a democracy surely people have the right to change their mind.

SR: Well let’s talk about that, people changing their mind, if there was a second referendum on Brexit, do you think there would have to be a second referendum on Scottish independence as well?

NICOLA STURGEON: Well look, there is a difference between the Brexit vote and Scottish independence vote and for that reason I don't think we are necessarily talking precedents here. If you cast your mind back to 2014, there was a very detailed prospectus that told people what they would be voting for if they voted yes to independence. The White Paper on independence, 800 plus pages of it, set out all of the details, set out some of the compromises and trade-offs that would be required. Of course not everybody agreed with that but nobody could deny that detail was there. That is in stark contrast to what happened in terms of the Brexit vote where we had that slogan – or to be more blunt about it, that lie – on the side of a bus. People didn’t know what they were voting for and now we have the situation where people are trying to interpret what the Brexit vote meant. Theresa May says it was a vote to curb immigration or it was a vote for an independent trade policy – frankly there is no clarity on that whatsoever. On the question of whether there should be another vote on Scottish independence, I will set out my further views on that in the New Year once we get over this period of turmoil around Brexit but the whole Brexit process over the last two and a half years, has strengthened the case for Scottish independence immeasurably in my view, not just because our vote in 2016 was ignored, not just because Scotland’s voice has been cast aside over these past couple of years but if you look at the position of Ireland, an independent member of the European Union, being shown support and solidarity by its colleagues in the EU – contrast that with devolved Scotland, completely cast aside, our interests ignored. Last week watching all of these small independent of the EU having more say over what happens to the future of the UK and Scotland right now than Scotland does, I think helps to make the case for being in charge of our own destiny as a country.

SR: Okay, I think that some people who support Brexit would probably dispute the idea that people didn’t know what they were voting for at that referendum but the other thing that I am quite keen to ask you about as well is why is it that you’re obviously a supporter for Scottish independence, you are unhappy with Scotland being dictated to by Westminster but you are happy to be a member of the EU, you are keen to be a member of the single market and the kind of rule taking that that involves. So why is that different, the relationship with Brussels, than that of Westminster?

NICOLA STURGEON: Well I think that is frankly, with the greatest of respect, a really overly simplistic argument. The European Union is an organisation made up of independent countries, nobody argues that France or Germany or Ireland are not independent countries. They come together pooling sovereignty to help deal with and tackle some of the big challenges that no country can do alone in the modern world. Climate change for example, through the EU, the world’s biggest single trading market has been created and you only have to look at Ireland. Ireland is not being dictated to, Ireland in many ways is calling the shots in the EU so the power of small independent countries in the EU is there for all to see right now and as I said a moment ago, that is in sharp contrast to the position of Scotland within the UK where our interests have been cast aside, our voice is being ignored, we face being taken out of the EU and the single market against our will. Now an independent Scotland will always have the closest of relationships with the other nations of the United Kingdom, that must is self-evident but I think the case right now becomes all the more stronger for Scotland to also have that close relationship with our colleagues across the EU, to be that internationalist, outward looking country that continues to play a part in the world and doesn’t have our interests completely cast aside in the way that is happening at the moment.

SR: And finally I wanted to ask you about Jean-Claude Junker, we were talking about him earlier in the programme with Rebecca Long-Bailey. This week he ruffled a woman’s hair, he joked about kissing about the Prime Minister, you may disagree with Theresa May on policy but do you think she is suffering from any sexism?

NICOLA STURGEON: I didn’t catch that last part of your question. I saw the photograph, the video footage of Jean-Claude Junker ruffling somebody’s hair and I think that looked pretty distasteful. I don't know the context of that but it wasn’t the nicest video footage I’ve ever seen.

SR: Okay, Nicola Sturgeon, thank you very much for being on the show this morning.