Sophy Ridge on Sunday Nicola Sturgeon First Minister


SOPHY RIDGE: Let’s now go to Glasgow where we’re joined by Scotland’s First Minister and the leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, thank you very much for being on the show today Ms Sturgeon.

NICOLA STURGEON: You’re welcome, good morning.

SR: Now you said that a Scottish referendum on independence is within touching distance, how quickly do you think it can happen?

NICOLA STURGEON: I want it to happen next year and the reason for that is simple. I believe it’s time for Scotland to determine what kind of future we want and what kind of country we want to be. In effect we define Scotland’s future as one of the central questions at this general election. We can leave our future in the hands of Boris Johnson, be taken out of the EU against our will, have the NHS and workers’ rights put at the mercy of Donald Trump, continue down a path that sees tax cuts for the wealthiest prioritised over investment in public services and people or we can take our future into our own hands and choose a Scotland that is open and welcome and where we put fairness and equality very much at the heart of what we do, so that’s the question for people in Scotland at this election. It really matters, our future is on the line and it’s a choice of what kind of future we want.

SR: We heard from Boris Johnson a little earlier on the show, I’m not sure if you managed to catch his entire reply to the question when I asked if he would be prepared to give the green light to another independence referendum. He said he doesn’t want to have one, he doesn’t see any reason to go back on that, that people have already had their say in a once in a generation event. What did you make of his answer?

NICOLA STURGEON: Well I thought his waffling was quite instructive actually. He omitted to recognise the fact that many things have changed since Scotland had an independence referendum in 2014, not least we face being taken out of the EU against our will but he said he didn’t want another referendum, he said he opposed independence. Actually that’s perfectly legitimate, I don’t agree with it but it’s legitimate but I thought it was interesting that he stopped short of saying he would seek to block the right of the Scottish people to choose. When you think about it, maybe that’s not surprising because when he does say that, particularly at the start of an election campaign, he sounds as if he is saying to the Scottish people that he doesn’t care how we vote, he’s going to ignore that vote. The fact of the matter is that’s not a sustainable position, it’s certainly not a democratic position. Everybody in Scotland knows there is going to be another independence referendum and if people in Scotland vote SNP, if the SNP win this election then that sends a clear message that we want to take our future into our own hands rather than have Boris Johnson continue to impose our future upon us.

SR: Jeremy Corbyn of course is the other person who perhaps has got the best chance of ending up in Number 10 Downing Street after the election, have you had any conversations with anyone from Labour about whether they could grant a second independence referendum?

NICOLA STURGEON: I’ve had conversations with Jeremy Corbyn recently, they’ve tended to focus on Brexit. We’ve not had a direct conversation about independence or an independence referendum. I think Jeremy Corbyn, like Boris Johnson, is well aware of my position and my party’s proposition on that. Then Jeremy Corbyn’s position on this – and I’m no great fan of Jeremy Corbyn – has been a lot more democratic and sensible than his party colleagues in Scotland. Again he is saying he doesn’t want a referendum, he doesn’t support independence but he believes it’s for the people of Scotland to decide that question, not for Westminster politicians to stand in its way and that is of course the fundamental issue. We can disagree on what the best future for Scotland is, I passionately believe that that is as an independent country charting our own course, working with others across the UK, Europe and further afield. Others can take a different view but the people who should decide that question are people here in Scotland.

SR: Jeremy Corbyn has told me before that it’s something that he wouldn’t agree to in the first few years if you like of a Labour government, is that something you could live with, it not happening immediately given that we might end up leaving the EU?

NICOLA STURGEON: No, look, I think these questions of whether there is another independence referendum or not and what the time scale of that should be are questions for the Scottish people and the Scottish parliament to decide. I am putting a very clear proposition before the Scottish people and if, of course I take nothing for granted, if the SNP win that election then for any Westminster politician to seek to stand in the way of an independence referendum on that time scale would be seeking to ignore the democratically expressed wishes of the Scottish people. That is not a sustainable position, it’s not a democratic position and, as it happens, I don't think it’s a position that any Westminster politician would be able to stick to.

SR: You talk about democracy a lot in this interview and I just can’t help thinking, the SNP want a second Scottish referendum, you didn’t like the result of the first one, you want a second referendum on Brexit because you didn’t like the result of the first one – I mean how many referendums do you need to see before you accept what people are telling you?

NICOLA STURGEON: Well look, the UK’s in a mess, that’s not my fault and it has to work its way out of that mess. Now let me just take on a couple of the, I guess, insinuations in that question. Yes, that’s absolutely true, I didn’t like the result of the 2015 referendum, I wish it had gone differently but I accepted that result, Scotland is not independent today. I simply take the view that particularly given everything that’s happened since, in any democracy people have a right to change their minds and as far as the Brexit vote is concerned, Scotland voted to remain so all I’m trying to do on Brexit is to stand up for how people in Scotland voted. We want to remain part of the European family of nations, we don’t think the EU is perfect but we understand the benefits that come from that. We don’t Scotland to turn away from that, we don’t want to be closed, we don’t want to be seen to be unwelcoming to those who come to our country from elsewhere. We’re an open, inclusive and welcoming country and that’s how we want to stay. If Scotland is independent, we’ll continue to be the best of friends and neighbours to the other parts of the British Isles but we can also continue to make our contribution as a part of the European Union and further afield, that’s the kind of internationalism that is at the very heart of the Scottish independence movement.

SR: So if Scotland did have a second independence referendum and voted to leave, would you like to see a confirmatory referendum once the terms of the deal and the terms of the departure were made clear, like you want to see in Brexit?

NICOLA STURGEON: No, and I don’t believe we should equate the two things. I don’t believe that is an inevitable part of any democratic referendum process, the problem with Brexit is that nobody was straight in advance of the referendum about what it meant, there was no detail, it wasn’t the kind of informed decision that the 2014 independence referendum was. I opposed Brexit, as I think you’ve probably gathered, but there was nothing inevitable about the mess that Brexit has become. By contrast in 2014, of course people took different views but there was a detailed prospectus put forward, people were very informed about the choices they were making, a lot of thought had gone into the compromises and the trade-off’s that were required if Scotland voted yes, one of the most controversial parts of the yes campaign was a currency union saying upfront that that was one of the trade-off’s that we would seek to bring about. So these two things are not the same. I would always want a Scottish independent referendum to be informed, with a lot of detail, so that people were taking a careful and considered decision so let’s not assume that the mess that Brexit has become and some of what might be required now to get out of that mess, is an inevitable part of the democratic process because it is not. That’s the failure of the politicians who put forward that weak prospectus and the ones that Theresa May, who tried to implement it without recognising that she was putting forward a lot of contradicting red lines in the process.

SR: I’m keen to talk to you as well, just as we finish off, about the election that we are having imminently. What would be a good night for the SNP?

NICOLA STURGEON: [Laughs] Well look, I don’t put an upper limit on the ambitions of my party. We fight, we are a national party, we will fight in every corner of Scotland, in every constituency of Scotland but I also take nothing for granted. We sometimes forget, media and indeed my own party, that before 2015 the biggest number of MPs that the SNP had ever had at one time was 11. We have now got 35 so of course we want to increase that tally but it’s a difficult thing to do so we’ll be fighting hard for every vote, every constituency, putting forward a very strong prospectus about the future of Scotland and the need to be the ones in the driving seat of deciding that future and then we’ll trust the people of Scotland to vote the way that’s best for the future of Scotland.

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