Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum plans were rapidly unravelling last night as it emerged she is to abandon the SNP’s policy of rejoining the EU immediately amid record Euroscepticism in Scotland.
Just a day after the Scottish First Minister demanded a second vote on independence, senior Nationalist sources told reporters Ms Sturgeon would instead try to join the European Free Trade Association, whose members include Norway and Iceland.
Ms Sturgeon fears the SNP’s long-standing policy of an independent Scotland joining the EU would put off the 400,000 voters who backed independence in 2014 and voted Leave in last year’s EU referendum. They represent one-quarter of all those who voted for independence.
A major survey released today also shows two-thirds of Scots either want Britain to leave the EU or for the bloc to have reduced powers.
The Scottish Conservatives said the SNP’s plans had “unravelled within 24 hours”.
British Prime Minister Theresa May rubbed salt in the wound by telling the House of Commons that on her visits to Brussels she “did not detect any support” for an independent Scotland being allowed to join the EU.
Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis told Ms Sturgeon Scotland would have to “join the back of the queue” if it wanted EU membership, as Spain is opposed to a UK break-up. Having hijacked the news agenda from Mrs May on Monday with her demands for a second independence vote as early as autumn 2018, Ms Sturgeon was forced on to the back foot yesterday.
She appeared rattled by suggestions that, with no overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, she had no mandate for a referendum, responding on Twitter by saying she won a greater share of the vote in Scotland than the Conservatives did in the general election.