Patrick Harvie presses First Minister on independence referendum after Brexit deal publication

Ben Wray

The First Minister stated in June last year that she would express her view on the timing of an independence referendum once the UK-EU Brexit deal was clear

SCOTTISH GREENS co-convenor Patrick Harvie has pressed the First Minister for a “precise timescale” on an independence referendum, following the publication of the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament in June last year that she would wait until the final Brexit deal was clear before pushing for a section 30 order to hold a referendum, and at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday [15 November] Harvie said it was now time for her to make her plans clear to Holyrood.

Harvie stated: “If the last two years have made anything clear, Scotland’s future is best secured as a full, independent, EU member state. The first minister stated in this chamber in summer last year that ‘at the end of the period of negotiation with the EU, when the terms of Brexit had been made clear, we would come back to parliament to set our judgement, including our view on the precise timescale for offering the people a choice over the country’s future’.

“Jackson Carlaw might not want to know the answer to that, but I want to know the answer, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Will the First Minister now confirm to us, that Scotland will be given that choice, and when?”

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The First Minister said she would set out her views on that “when we have clarity”, adding: “we have now seen the terms of the deal, it remains to be seen whether that makes it to the House of Commons over the next couple of weeks, and we will see how that sorry saga plays out.”

She reiterated her view that Scotland would get to vote on independence again and that independence needed to come sooner rather than later.

Harvie responded by saying that “there is already surely enough clarity to make a judgement”, adding that it is already clear the Deal does not protect Scotland’s interests.

Sturgeon replied: “People deserve a bit of clarity about what else might unfold over the coming period; are we going to have another General Election? Is there going to be a second EU referendum? I think it is reasonable to allow this to play out over these next few weeks. But there is no doubt in my mind that this country is going to become an independent country.”

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The deal agreed by the UK Government and EU negotiators means that following the two year transition period the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ would come into effect, which would mean that the UK would be in a replica of the Customs Union with the EU indefinitely if no further agreement is found which is acceptable to both the UK and the EU. The European Court of Justice will also have a role in arbitrating on legal issues pertaining to the UK, something the Prime Minister had previously said would not happen.

The Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and DWP Secretary Esther Mcvey resigned on Thursday, and some Tory MPs are pushing for a leadership challenge to the Prime Minister, who has said that she will continue with her plan to put the Agreement to the House of Commons in a vote she is now widely expected to lose.

The biggest marches for independence in Scottish history have taken place in 2018 in Edinburgh and Glasgow, with organisers putting figures at 50,000+ on each. Opinion polls have consistently shown a narrow majority for a No vote in a future independence referendum, but the polls tighten when asked how they would vote following a No Deal Brexit.