Scotland’s First Minister sets out vision for Scotland-EU relations beyond Brexit.

Earlier today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon restated the Scottish government’s support for remaining in the EU, in a speech she delivered at the European Policy Centre:

The Scottish Government deeply regrets – that’s probably an understatement – the UK’s vote to leave. We think the best option – for the UK, and certainly the best option for Scotland – is to remain in the European Union.

Despite that, we recognised the outcome of the UK-wide vote, and argued for a long time for possible compromise solutions.

Brexit - and everything that flows from it - runs counter to our democratic wishes. It would constrain the choices of Scottish Governments now and into the future and reduce our ability, for a long time to come, to fund public services, support our businesses, tackle poverty, and work with other countries to tackle the big challenges that we face.

She also highlighted Scotland’s growing engagement and role in Europe and the wider world. Speaking about her vision for Scotland’s relation with the EU beyond Brexit, she emphasised their shared values and ideals; belief in interdependence, peacebuilding, reconciliation, human rights, and independent countries working together for the common good:

In a world of great trading blocks, the EU is our best means of expanding free trade while preserving social protections.

In an age where the voices of protectionism and intolerance often seem to be getting louder, the EU amplifies our own support for openness, diversity and human rights. And at a time when the rules-based international order is being threatened, the EU exemplifies the value of co-operation and solidarity.

In his acceptance speech for the [Nobel Peace] prize, Herman van Rompuy – who of course was then the European Council president – expressed the hope that future generations – in whatever language they choose – will say that “I am proud to be European.”

And those words express the hope and expectation I have for future generations in Scotland. I believe that we too will be proud to be European. And I hope that our European identity will continue to find expression in our membership of the European Union.

Because of that, the Scottish Government will exert a positive influence – whenever we can – in the wider debate about UK membership. But in the spirit of international co-operation and solidarity, we also desire the option of taking our own place in Europe.

The First Minister also said:

We want not simply to benefit from free movement and free trade – although we do – we also want to contribute Scotland’s ideas and talents to Europe’s shared challenges, and to uphold and exemplify our shared values.

In the 20 years since devolution, our contribution has already grown significantly. For all the current challenges we face, my hope – and my belief – is that it will grow further in the years to come.

We look forward to working with our friends across Europe to make that happen.

EPC Chief Executive Fabian Zuleeg, who moderated the event, commented: “Given that the likelihood of a no deal Brexit is increasing, the question of what the future relationship between Scotland and the EU will look like has a new salience. In these circumstances, the case for EU membership of an independent Scotland has strengthened as long as Scotland is willing to accept the obligations of membership.”🔷

Read Nicola Sturgeon’s speech in full.

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[This piece was originally published on the EPC website. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Nicola Sturgeon | European Policy Centre.)