Scotland is standing at a Brexit “crossroads” with a second independence referendum potentially offering “the only way” for its voice to be heard, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister used a speech in Edinburgh to argue that Scotland faced a “democratic deficit” which, if continued, would make a rerun of 2014’s independence poll arguably “necessary” to give Scots a say in the future direction of the country.
Ms Sturgeon also warned that the powers of the Scottish Parliament were at risk from the Conservative Government at Westminster following the vote to leave the European Union (EU).
In an address to the David Hume Institute, Ms Sturgeon said that events before, during and after the Brexit vote demonstrated that “the democratic deficit which fuelled the demand for a Scottish Parliament in the 1980s and 1990s has opened up again”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The UK Government still has an opportunity to change course and to seek compromise that we are open to, and I very much hope that it takes that opportunity ahead of the triggering of Article 50.
“However, if it doesn’t it will show that the democratic deficit which people voted to end in 1997 doesn’t just endure – it continues to have the potential to cause harm to our interests, to our international relationships, to our very sense of our own identity.
“And so if those circumstances arise, proposing a further decision on independence wouldn’t simply be legitimate, it would arguably be a necessary way of giving the people of Scotland a say in our own future direction.
“It would offer Scotland a proper choice on whether or not to be part of a post-Brexit UK – a UK that is undoubtedly on a fundamentally different path today than that envisaged in 2014.
“And in the absence of compromise from the UK Government, it may offer the only way in which our voice can be heard, our interests protected, and our values upheld.”
She added: “As a result of the Brexit vote, we, Scotland and the UK, stand now at a crossroads. Decisions taken in the months to come will reshape our economy, our society and our place in the world. In short they will shape the kind of country we’re going to be.
“The question is should we decide for ourselves which path to take or are we willing to have that path decided for us? We may all offer different answers to that question but surely the choice should be ours.”
Ms Sturgeon added that despite promises made by the Leave campaign during the referendum that Holyrood would gain new powers repatriated from Brussels, statements suggest elements of farming and fishing policy “now risk being taken back to Westminster”.
She said: “That would be utterly unacceptable. It would be a gross betrayal of the claims and promises made during the EU referendum campaign.
“But more profoundly it would undermine the basis of the existing devolution settlement.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale accused Ms Sturgeon of “ridiculous scaremongering” while Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson described the speech as “hyperbole” and “synthetic grievance”.
A UK Government spokesman said: “These claims completely misrepresent the UK Government’s position.
“We have been very clear that no decisions currently taken by Holyrood will be taken away.”