Says SNP will always ask for independence, pledges fees help for EU citizens
EDINBURGH: The gap between Scotland and Westminster has “never been wider”, Nicola Sturgeon declared as she pledged the SNP will “always” make the case for independence. The Scottish First Minister had been forced to delay plans for a second Scottish independence referendum, after suffering heavy losses in June’s snap general election.
While she insisted her party still has a mandate to hold such a vote, she said she would “respect” the desire for greater clarity over Brexit before Scots go to the polls again. But she was clear: “There is a better future to be had for all of us, if we chose to build it, together.”
The case for leaving the UK “does not depend on Brexit”, the SNP leader said, but she said the decision to leave the European Union – which was not supported in Scotland – showed “what can happen when we don’t control our own future”.
Ms Sturgeon told the conference: “The gap between Scotland’s interests and Westminster’s priorities has never been wider.”
She accepted many independence supporters “are impatient for change” – but said that “we may not yet know exactly when the choice will be made.”
However she stressed: “We can, we must, and we will always make the case for independence. “With the UK government so engulfed in chaos and taking the country down a path of self imposed decline, the need to do so has never been greater.”
She hit out at the Tories over their “heartless, shameful, self defeating” policies of austerity, and also condemned them for pursuing the
“hardest possible Brexit”.
Nicola Sturgeon that the Scottish Government will pay the fees of European citizens working in the public sector if they want to gain “settled status” after Brexit. She said covering the cost of this would help keep “vital workers” in the NHS and other services, but would also send an important message to Europeans living and working here.
It is estimated around 20,000 EU citizens work directly for Scotland’s public sector, including the NHS, with many more employed in services such as social care.
Ms Sturgeon said she believed the UK Government was going to make Europeans living in Britain apply for “settled status” if they want to remain in the country post Brexit and could “possible charge a fee” for this.