ABERDEEN, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) — Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday that an independent Scotland could act as a bridge between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom and be a “magnet for global investment.”
Sturgeon, who also leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), spoke at the conclusion of the party’s three-day conference in Aberdeen, the third largest Scottish city that was the venue for a high-profile pro-independence demonstration two months ago.
“We will be in the EU single market and also the closest neighbor to our friends in the rest of the UK — a bridge between the EU and the UK, making our country a magnet for global investment,” she said.
“That’s what I call the best of both worlds,” she added.
Sturgeon confirmed at the conference that she will ask the UK government to give formal consent for a second referendum on Scottish independence by the end of this year.
“We have a cast iron mandate for an independence referendum,” she said. “Our job is to deliver independence.”
A second referendum on Scottish independence “must happen next year,” Sturgeon said.
“We will win our independence, but not the Brexit way,” she said, not by “undermining democracy, demonizing those who disagree and plastering lies on the side of a bus” but by “inspiring and persuading.”
In August, a poll suggested that a majority of Scots are now in favor of independence.
Neil Mackay, founder of the high-profile Scottish independence pressure group All Under One Banner (AUOB), told Xinhua after Sturgeon’s speech that he was pleased to hear that Sturgeon aimed to hold a referendum before the end of this year.
“It’s a strong and inspiring speech,” he said. “But how she thinks she can make this demand ‘irresistible’ is unknown to me.
“The only viable option is to press ahead with the plan regardless of Westminster’s predictable refusal,” he said.
NO-DEAL BREXIT “UNTHINKABLE”
Observers believe that the prospect of a no-deal Brexit has fast-tracked the Scottish independence movement.
Sturgeon’s comments also came as the UK and the EU are working against the clock to lock down a Brexit deal ahead of the upcoming key EU summit.
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31, and the European leaders’ summit starting on Thursday is seen as the last chance to agree any deal before that deadline.
Sturgeon described a possible no-deal Brexit as “unthinkable.”
A no-deal Brexit would give the Scots the hard choice between Britain’s internal market and that of the EU.
The SNP has been asked several times whether Scotland being inside the EU’s single market while the rest of the UK outside would require a hard border between the two.
Sturgeon has earlier told journalists that before Scotland decides on independence, it would set out how it intends to ensure that trade flows between Scotland the rest of the the UK would continue.
“Obviously the detail of that depends on the final relationship between the UK and the EU,” she said.
Scotland voted to remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum, two years after it voted to stay as part of Britain in a what was described as a once-in-a-generation independence vote.
But campaigners say they want a second independence referendum in light of the handling by the UK government of negotiations over the country’s planned departure from the EU.