Scotland has warned that Britain’s exit from the European Union may severely damage the Scottish economy and its place in the world if the UK is left without a deal on preferential access to the EU’s single market.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday that a second referendum on Scottish independence was an option if the UK government took decisions that hurt Scotland’s economy and its place in the world.
“I’m trying to be tactful here – it would be helpful to know more about the UK government’s kind of thinking,” Sturgeon said in a speech to the Institute of Directors. “We would all benefit greatly from some clarity.”
“I don’t believe there is a clear mandate for what is generally known as a ‘hard Brexit’,” Sturgeon said, adding that it would hurt employment, business, investment and wider society by undermining institutions such as universities.
Under the ‘hard Brexit’ formula, the United Kingdom may lose its preferential access to the EU’s single market and suffer from soured relations with other EU members.
After the Brexit vote in June, Sturgeon said Scotland may hold another referendum for independence.
Scots rejected independence from the UK in a 2014 referendum. But in the referendum on EU membership on June 23, they voted to stay in the bloc while England and Wales opted to leave.
A Scottish independence from the UK would split the world’s fifth largest economy apart just as it attempts to go it alone outside the European bloc.
Sturgeon also said she wanted to see if there were ways for Scotland to preserve the benefits of EU single market membership even if the rest of the UK did not get such market access after the Brexit process.
“We need to think creatively and negotiate constructively,” she said. “No option can be off the table for Scotland.”
Sturgeon expressed concern about the result of the Brexit negotiations. “I do not want to see the UK government compound the mistakes of the EU referendum in negotiations and end up in a position that is much harder than we need,” she said.