Nicola Sturgeon is savaged over ‘delusional’ plans for post-independence border with England and NatWest’s threat to leave Scotland – as she trolls Alex Salmond saying the ‘reality’ is he’s NOT going to be an MSP after election next week
- Nicola Sturgeon wriggled as she was grilled on her Scots independence plans
- SNP leader complained people trying to ‘stir up trouble’ over England border
- Played down warning from NatWest it will have to relocate to England after split
Nicola Sturgeon was today savaged over her plans for post-independence border with England and NatWest’s threat to leave Scotland – with just a week to go until crucial elections.
The SNP leader wriggled as she was challenged over her suggestion that the Northern Ireland protocol could be a model for after separation – branded ‘delusional’ by critics.
She complained that people were trying to ‘stir up trouble’ as she insisted in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a solution can be found that can keep trade with England ‘flowing without hampering it without friction’.
Instead she argued that rejoining the EU – something that experts have warned could not happen for years – would be ‘massively beneficial’ for Scottish businesses.
Ms Sturgeon tried to play down the warning from NatWest – formerly Royal Bank of Scotland – that it will have to move to England if Scotland becomes independent because the economy would be too small. She said Scotland would create its own currency to replace the Pound and central bank.
During the heated exchanges, Ms Sturgeon also took aim rival Alex Salmond jibing that the ‘reality’ is he is not likely to be an MSP after the election, with his new Alba Party polling at just 2-3 per cent.
Nicola Sturgeon (picture campaigning in Aberdeenshire yesterday) wriggled as she was challenged over her suggestion that the Northern Ireland protocol could be a model for after separation – branded ‘delusional’ by critics
During an interview on BBC Radio 4, Ms Sturgeon also took aim rival Alex Salmond jibing that the ‘reality’ is he is not likely to be an MSP after the election, with his new Alba Party polling at just 2-3 per cent
Ms Sturgeon was grilled repeatedly over how she could stop Scotland being hammered by having to impose border restrictions with England.
She claimed an independent Scotland would negotiate terms to ‘allow businesses to keep trading’, and moaned that the problems were being exaggerated.
Ms Sturgeon said: ‘This is the frankness that certain sections of the media will seek to stir up trouble on – I am not denying that we would need to confront and resolve the issues of being in the European Union for the border between Scotland and England.
‘If we do that in a way that allows businesses to keep trading, because businesses are already paying the price of having a border because of Brexit, we open up the European Union again.
‘That is massively important for Scottish businesses, and also makes Scotland more attractive again in terms of inward investment to secure that access to the single market.’
The First Minister also dismissed concerns about whether Scotland would be allowed to remain in the common travel area with the rest of the UK and Ireland – saying ‘nobody with any shred of credibility’ is suggesting otherwise, but admitting that it has been questioned in Westminster.
She refused to say how long Scotland would retain the Trident nuclear weapons system, which has been a totemic issue for many SNP members.
When asked if it ‘could be years’ after Scotland becomes independent before the missiles are removed from the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I want to see Trident removed from Scotland as quickly as possible, not least because I think there are many more important things we can do with the money that is invested in Trident.
‘I’m not going to sit here right now and say exactly what that timescale will be other than I want it to be as quickly as is safely possible, and I’m saying to you very openly that safety is a priority.’
Mr Salmond has vowed that if he wins a seat in the election he will table a motion ordering the Scottish Government to launch immediate negotiations with the UK Government on independence.
But Ms Sturgeon swiped that polls suggested Mr Salmond becoming an MP is ‘not going to be the reality’, with Alba languishing at just 2-3 per cent support.
Following bruising criticism for trying to force a referendum as early as this year amid a fledgling pandemic recovery, and a sharp slump in backing for splitting the union, Ms Sturgeon struck a softer tone on her timetable.
‘My immediate focus, if I’m re-elected next Thursday, is to get back to work to continue to steer this country through Covid,’ she said.
‘I don’t believe we should propose a referendum right at this moment.
I’m a life-long supporter of independence, I want Scotland to be independent. But firstly we’ve got to steer the country through the crisis and we’ve got to build the majority for independence through patient persuasion.
‘People who are serious about achieving independence I think understand that.’
In another dig at Mr Salmond, she added: ‘I think talk of supermajorities and gaming the system and trying to bulldoze our way to independence almost regardless of the state of public opinion risks putting those we need to persuade of independence off rather than pulling them towards us.’
In a separate interview with the Irish Times yesterday, Ms Sturgeon floated the idea that Scotland could have a similar relationship with the EU and Britain as Northern Ireland.
‘In terms of goods and services, if we are an independent country within the European Union, of course we have to comply with the rules and regulations
‘But what we’ve got to understand is that Brexit has created border issues, and our businesses right now are paying the price for that. What we’ve got to decide is how best we arrange all of these things for maximum advantage.
‘The Northern Ireland protocol, if there are easements there, yes, I think that does offer some template.’
She defended the suggestion today, saying there will be ‘lessons’ for Scotland from Northern Ireland’s arrangements.
But critics have pointed out that the province was made a special case because of the Troubles, and has been plagued with sectarian tensions and border old-ups since the protocol came into force.
A Savanta ComRes poll published yesterday found 54 per cent would vote No if Ms Sturgeon achieves her ambition of triggering another referendum
Ms Sturgeon tried to play down the warning from NatWest – formerly Royal Bank of Scotland – that it will have to move to England if Scotland becomes independent because the economy would be too small to support its balance sheet
Labour shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: ‘The First Minister’s comments simply beggar belief and demonstrate the bizarre positions that Nicola Sturgeon is forced to adopt in a vain attempt to mask the economic threat caused by Scottish separation.’
Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael added: ‘The polite term for this would be delusional.’
There was more evidence Nicola Sturgeon’s independence drive is faltering yesterday with a poll backing for the UK at the highest level in 18 months.
Savanta ComRes research found 54 per cent would vote No if Ms Sturgeon achieves her ambition of triggering another referendum.
The survey for the Scotsman also suggest the SNP is set to lose two seats in the elections next week – leaving it four seats short of a majority.
Ms Sturgeon has made calling a fresh ballot on separation as early as this year the key plank of her manifesto.
She has insisted that a big SNP win provide a mandate for another contest, even though the last vote in 2014 was billed as ‘once in a generation’.
However, after riding high for months, a slew of recent polls have shown backing for dividing the UK has been slipping, as Ms Sturgeon’s civil war with Mr Salmond rages.
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