Analysis: The 3 options Nicola Sturgeon has presented to keep Scotland in the EU


Ahead of a historic debate in the Scottish Parliament on Scotland’s predicament following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, CommonSpace looks at the three options Nicola Sturgeon has outlined as potential ways forward

THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT will today (28 June) hold an historic debate on how Scotland’s place in the EU can be protected following the UK’s shock vote to leave the EU on Thursday (23 June).

The debate in the parliament, which overwhelmingly backs EU membership,  comes after a flurry of proposals from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about how Scotland could remain a part of the EU even as the UK leaves.

CommonSpace looks at the key statement made by Sturgeon so far and what they mean.

Second independence referendum “on the table”

Friday 24 June: “The manifesto that the SNP was elected on last month said this: ‘The Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum, if there is a significant and material change of circumstances that prevailed in 2014 such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.’

“Scotland does now face that prospect, it is a significant and material change in circumstances and it is therefore a statement of the obvious that a second referendum must be on the table, and it is on the table.”

Sturgeon’s opening salvo in the debate about Scotland’s relationship with the EU and the UK following an Out vote stressed a manifesto commitment made by the SNP in the May Scottish elections.

The pledge, that another independence referendum could be held under circumstances where the UK voted to leave the EU and Scotland voted by a majority to remain was perceived by many to be a side concern or even tokenistic at the time, since an In vote was expected.

However following the shock vote for Brexit, it was clear these criterion for a second independence referendum had been met.

A second independence referendum could be a threat for creating leverage in negotiations, or it could be the intention of the Scottish Government to proceed through negotiations to the referendum.

It could of course be both these things.

Protecting Scotland’s place in the EU “here and now”

Saturday 25 June: “Most of our discussions this morning centred on what we can do in the here and now and in the negotiation that lie ahead to protection Scotland’s relationship with the European union and our place in the single market.

“Cabinet agree that we will seek to enter into immediate discussions with the EU institutions and with other EU member states to explore all possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.”

It is unclear how Scotland could continue to remain a full member of the EU under circumstances where the UK as a whole leaves.

Some have drawn attention  to Greenland’s circumstances, with Greenland outside the EU since 1982 despite its population being Danish citizens, with Denmark remaining an EU member.

However there is no precedent for this process working in reverse, with a member state leaving under Article 50 (the legislative mechanism for a member state to quit the bloc), and a part of the state remaining In.

The attempt to maintain Scotland within the EU could be genuine, or about being seen to have exhausted all options short of independence.

Some have ventured that a half measure, with Scotland maintaining some sort of special status within the EU, could be possible.

Blocking Brexit at Holyrood to protect “Scotland’s interests”

Sunday 26 June: “If the Scottish Parliament was judging this on the basis of what’s right for Scotland then the option of saying ‘look we’re not going to vote for something that is against Scotland’s interests’ of course that’s going to be on the table.”

This is how Sturgeon responded when asked whether the Scottish Parliament should consider withholding legislative consent for legislation that would see the UK leave the EU.

The Scottish Parliament has the ability to withhold its consent for the passage of legislation at a UK level when this legislation impacts upon areas of governance devolved to Scotland, including when it impacts on Scottish laws, alters the legislative function of the Scottish Parliament, or impinges upon the abilities of its ministers to govern.

The Scottish Parliament has tried it’s luck on more than one occasion in recent months, including an attempt to block the implementation of the Conservative government’s Trade Union Bill.

This is a risky strategy as it would stretch the intended function of legislative consent, which was meant to allow for smooth and consensual operation between Westminster and devolved parliaments, and create enormous resentment throughout much of the UK.

Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland

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