First Minister News

First Minister Statement on EU and UK Government talks

Statement on EU and UK Government talks by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Commenting on the EU and UK Government talks, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

It is beyond belief that in the midst of a global pandemic and deep recession the Prime Minister is telling Scotland to get ready for a disastrous No Deal Brexit.

“With less than three months until the end of the transition period, businesses and people across Scotland will be in despair at this extraordinary statement.

“At best this is reckless brinkmanship. At worst it means the UK Government is now actively pursuing a No Deal outcome.

“The reality is Scotland’s economy is going to be damaged by a further needless hit to jobs at the worst possible time, with either a thin trade deal or no deal now the only possible outcomes.

“A completely unnecessary Brexit shock will hit many businesses already struggling with the Covid-19 crisis.

“A No Deal outcome would be particularly disastrous. Scotland could see heavy tariffs on goods, which for some sectors would be crippling.

“Because of the hard-line Brexit position adopted by the UK Government any outcome is going to be damaging, but a No Deal will mean the biggest hit to jobs. The Prime Minister must withdraw his threat to force the hardest possible Brexit on Scotland.

“The Scottish Government view is clear – the best future for Scotland is to become an independent country.”

Article Source: https://firstminister.gov.scot/statement-on-eu-and-uk-government-talks-by-first-minister-nicola-sturgeon/

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First Minister national address on Coronavirus measures

First Minister media address to Scotland on 22 September 2020 on new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland.

This speech is from the Gov.scot website and was broadcast live on tv and online in Scotland.

“The last six months have been unprecedented.

They’ve been the hardest many of us have ever lived through

But through our collective efforts across Scotland, we did beat Covid back.

As a result – although too much heartbreak has been endured and too many families are grieving – many lives were also saved.

But as we enter winter, and with many lockdown restrictions now thankfully lifted, the challenge is once again getting harder.

Albeit from the very low level we achieved in the summer, cases are rising again.

In the last three weeks, they have almost trebled.

And as the virus spreads, we see more people being admitted to hospital again and sadly dying.

So we are once again at a tipping point

We must act to get Covid back under control.

And protect the things that matter most to us.

In a global pandemic of a virus with as yet no vaccine, we simply can’t have 100% normality. No country can.

So we must choose our priorities.

Our priorities are saving lives and protecting health.

Keeping schools open.

Restarting NHS services.

Ensuring care homes are safe.

And protecting jobs and livelihoods.

It is to safeguard these priorities that I must ask all of you again to make sacrifices.

Sacrifices for our national well-being.

They are not easy but please believe me when I say they are essential.

We have decided that from Friday there will be a national curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants. They will have to close by 10pm – to reduce the time people spend there.

And from tomorrow, we are all being asked not to visit each other’s homes – because we know that is often how the virus spreads most easily from one household to another.

There are exceptions – for care of the vulnerable, extended households, childcare and tradespeople.

But generally, by staying out of other people’s houses for now, we give ourselves the best chance of bringing Covid back under control.

We can still meet outdoors with one other household in groups of up to 6 people

And because we know this is especially difficult for children and young people we’ve tried to build in more flexibility for you.

If you are younger than 12, there are no limits on playing with your friends outdoors.

And if you are between 12 and 17 you can meet your friends outdoors in groups of 6 – but you don’t all have to be from just two households.

Now, for everyone – adults and children – I know that today must feel like a step backwards.

But please know that thanks to all your efforts over the last six months, we are in a much stronger position than in the spring.

Cases are rising but less rapidly than back then.

Our Test & Protect system is working well – tracing contacts and breaking chains of transmission.

We have much more information on how and where the virus spreads.

And we know what we need to do to protect ourselves and others.

And all of us have a part to play.

So I am asking everyone – please, follow the new rules. They will make a difference.

If you can and haven’t already, please also go to protect.scot and download the Protect Scotland app – so more people who might be at risk of the virus can be traced quickly and asked to self-isolate.

And remember FACTS – face coverings, avoid crowded areas; clean your hands and surfaces; keep two metre distancing; and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.

Finally, I know that all of this has been incredibly tough – and six months on it only gets tougher.

But never forget that humanity has come through even bigger challenges than this one.

And though it doesn’t feel like it now, this virus will pass.

It won’t last forever and one day, hopefully soon, we will be looking back on it, not living through it.

So though we are all struggling with this – and believe me, we are all struggling – let’s pull together.

Let’s keep going, try to keep smiling, keep hoping and keep looking out for each other.

Be strong, be kind and let’s continue to act out of love and solidarity.

I will never find the words to thank all of you enough for the enormous sacrifices you have made so far.

And I am sorry to be asking for more.

But a belief I hold on to – and one I am asking you to keep faith with in those moments when it all feels too hard – is this.

If we stick with it – and, above all, if we stick together – we will get through it.”

ARTICLE SOURCE: https://www.gov.scot/news/first-minister-nicola-sturgeons-address-on-coronavirus-measures/

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RELATED STORY: Nicola Sturgeon statement on additional COVID restrictions 22/0920 Scot Parliament

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Nicola Sturgeon statement on additional COVID restrictions

Below is Nicola Sturgeon’s full statement to the Scottish Parliament on the implementation of additional COVID restrictions in Scotland.

Presiding Officer,

I will update the chamber on additional restrictions that the Scottish Government believes are necessary to get Covid back under control as we enter winter.

I will also set out why these measures are essential, and the principles and priorities that have guided our decisions.

First, though, I will provide a summary of today’s statistics.

Since yesterday, an additional 383 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed.

That represents 7.6% of the people newly tested, and takes the total number of cases to 25,009.

A total of 73 patients are currently in hospital with confirmed Covid-19, which is the same as yesterday.

And 10 people are in intensive care which is 2 more than yesterday.

I am also sorry to report that in the past 24 hours, one further death has been registered of a patient who had tested positive for the virus.

The total number of deaths in Scotland under that measurement is therefore now 2,506.

That reminds us of the impact of Covid. These deaths are not just statistics – they are of real people whose loss is a source of heartbreak.

My condolences go to everyone who has lost a loved one to this illness.

Today’s figures reflect the course the virus has taken in recent weeks.

In mid July, we were recording an average of 9 new cases a day.

Around 4 weeks later, that had risen to an average of 52 cases a day.

Three weeks after that, it was 102.

Today it is 285.

We have also seen an increase in the percentage of tests coming back positive. In late August, that percentage was consistently below 1%.

Today it is over 7%.

The R number is also above 1 again, possibly as high as 1.4.

Now it is worth stressing that this growth in cases – because of the collective sacrifices we all made to drive infection levels down over the summer – is from a low base.

It is also, at this stage, far less rapid than in March.

But it is rising, faster than we can be comfortable with. We cannot let it continue unchecked.

And while in recent weeks, the biggest number of new cases has been in people under the age of 40, we now see an increase amongst the older population too.

And unsurprisingly, in light of that, hospital and intensive care admissions and also deaths are starting to rise too.

All of this underlines what, for me, is a key point,

We cannot be complacent about Covid.

It kills too many old and vulnerable people. And for younger, healthier people, while the risks of dying from it are much lower – though not non-existent – it can still result in long term, serious health problems.

That’s why action to bring it back under control is necessary – and to bring the R number down again, the action we take now must go beyond the step we announced almost two weeks ago to restrict indoor and outdoor gatherings to 6 people from 2 households.

Over the weekend and in the course of yesterday the Scottish Government considered a range of options.

On Saturday, I had a discussion with other devolved administrations, and I spoke to the Prime Minister yesterday.

I also took part in this morning’s COBR meeting.

At that meeting, all four governments committed to suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level and keeping it there.

Following on from that meeting, measures to control the virus were agreed at Cabinet.

I can confirm that we will introduce measures on hospitality similar to those outlined for England by the Prime Minister a short while ago – and thereby align as far as possible with the rest of the U.K.

However, the advice given to the Cabinet by the Chief Medical Officer and the National Clinical Director is that this on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down.

They stress that we must act, not just quickly and decisively, but also on a scale significant enough to have an impact on the spread of the virus.

And they advise that we must take account of the fact that household interaction is a key driver of transmission.

To that end, we intend – as Northern Ireland did yesterday – to also introduce nationwide additional restrictions on household gatherings, similar to those already in place in the West of Scotland.

I will say more about these measures shortly. Full details will also be published on the Scottish Government’s website.

But first let me be clear about the priorities that have guided our decisions.

And it is essential that we think in terms of priorities. Faced with a global pandemic of an infectious and dangerous virus, it is not possible to do everything and to live our lives completely normally.

No country is able to do that just now.

So instead we have to decide what matters most and make trade-offs elsewhere to make those things possible.

Of course, the most important priority is saving lives and protecting health.

But there are other priorities too.

Firstly, we are determined to keep schools open and young people in education. That is vital to the health, wellbeing and future prospects of every young person in the country.

Second, we must restart as many previously paused NHS services as possible, so that more people can get the non COVID treatment they need. Our NHS must be equipped this winter to care for those who have COVID – and it will be.

But it must be there for people with heart disease, cancer and other illnesses too.

And, third, we must protect people’s jobs and livelihoods – that means keeping businesses open and trading as normally as is feasible.

To achieve all of that, we must stop the virus from spiralling out of control and we can only do that if we accept restrictions in other aspects of our lives.

The more positive news is that because we did drive the virus down to low levels over the summer, and because we now have Test & Protect in place and functioning well, the restrictions can be more targeted than earlier in the year.

The measures I am announcing today are tough – I will not pretend otherwise – but they do not represent a full scale lockdown of the kind imposed in March.

Indeed, today’s measures are an attempt to avoid another lockdown.

I also want to address talk in recent days about restrictions being needed for six months or more.

It is certainly the case, until scientific developments such as a vaccine change the game in the battle against COVID, it will have an impact on our lives.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the new restrictions I am announcing today will be in place for six months.

By acting early and substantially, our hope is that these new measures will be in place for a shorter period than would be the case if we waited longer to act.

In the first instance, we will review them in 3 weeks – although given the nature of this virus, they may be needed for longer than that.

So let me set out the package of measures we hope can bring Covid back under control.

I will focus first on those areas where we intend to reinforce existing guidance and provide better support for compliance.

Firstly, everyone who can work from home, should work from home.

That has been the Scottish Government advice throughout, but we are reinforcing it today.

To employers, if you have encouraged workers back to the office who could be working from home, please rethink that.

We know not everyone wants to work from home – and it does have an impact on our town and city centres – but with the virus on the rise again, home working limits the numbers of people on public transport and gathering together for lengthy periods indoors. That is why it is important.

We want employers to comply with this advice voluntarily as the vast majority do. But if necessary we will put a legal duty on businesses to allow home working where possible.

Second, we intend in the coming days, through media and social media, to reinforce the central importance of the FACTS advice – face coverings, avoiding crowded places, cleaning hands and hard surfaces, keeping two metre distance and self isolating and booking a test if you have symptoms.

At the start of the pandemic, compliance with basic hygiene measures was very strong.

That makes a difference – and it is just as important now as it was then.

So I am asking everyone to make a conscious and renewed effort to comply with all of this advice.

And third – and related to the last point – we will introduce a package of support for people who are asked to self isolate.

Self isolation of people with symptoms awaiting a test, people who test positive and household and other close contacts of such people is essential to breaking the chains of transmission.

But we know self isolation is hard. It asks a lot of people and, for some, the financial implications make it even more difficult.

So we intend, firstly, to raise awareness of the importance of self isolation and what it entails. Ensuring that people fully understand why we are asking them to do difficult things is the first step to ensuring compliance.

Next, we are working with local authorities to ensure that when someone is asked by Test & Protect to self isolate, they will be contacted proactively and offered essential practical support – for example help with delivery of food and other essentials.

And, most importantly, we will introduce financial support of £500 for those on low incomes.

More detail of this scheme will be published shortly.

As I said yesterday, we will keep issues of enforcement for non compliance with self isolation under review.

However, our judgment at this stage – particularly given the spirit of solidarity that is so essential in our fight against this virus – is that supporting people to do the right thing is more effective than threatening harsh punishment if they can’t.

Presiding Officer,

Let me now turn to the new restrictions that are necessary to bring the virus back under control.

First, as I indicated earlier, we will introduce a strict nationwide curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants.

From Friday, pubs, bars and restaurants will be required to close at 10pm.

Now, people sometimes ask me why we don’t just close pubs again altogether – and I can understand that.

The answer – to be frank – is that we are seeking to find a balance between action to suppress the virus and the protection of people’s jobs and livelihoods.

If the Scottish Government had greater powers to borrow money, or the ability to extend the Job Retention Scheme, for example, it is possible that we would reach a different balance of judgment on some of these issues.

But we don’t.

So this decision today means we can reduce the amount of time people are able to spend in licensed premises, thereby curtailing the spread of the virus, while still allowing businesses to trade and provide jobs.

This is the best balance for now.

However, I want to be clear with the hospitality trade about this.

Notwithstanding the economic implications, further restrictions, including possible closure, will be unavoidable – locally or nationally – if the rules within pubs and restaurants on hygiene, face coverings, table service, maximum numbers in groups, and the distance between them are not fully complied with.

I want to thank those businesses that are making huge efforts to ensure compliance.

However, to ensure this is the case for all, we will be providing resources for additional Environmental Health Officers and asking local authorities to significantly step up inspection and enforcement.

Let me turn now to the most difficult part of today’s announcement – further restrictions on household gatherings.

We know from the data available to us through Test & Protect that a high proportion of new cases come from social interactions between different households in our homes.

We also know from Test & Protect – and from our own experiences – that it is much more difficult to maintain physical distance – and have, for example, good ventilation – inside our own homes.

We also know that when the virus infects one person in a household it is highly likely to affect others in the same household. It will also infect people visiting that household, who will in turn take it back to their households.

Therefore, difficult though it is, any serious effort to reduce the R number below 1 must take account of this key driver of transmission and seek to break it.

So after careful consideration, we have decided that from tomorrow, to be reviewed after three weeks, and with exceptions that I will come on to, visiting other households will not be permitted.

To be clear, this extends the restriction that has been in place across the West of Scotland for the last three weeks to all of Scotland. Regulations giving effect to this change will come into force on Friday, but I am asking people to comply from tomorrow.

One of the reasons we have decided to do this is that our early data suggests this restriction is starting to slow the increase of cases in the West of Scotland.

So if we extend it nationwide now, in an early and preventative way, we hope it will help to bring the R number down and the virus back under control.

There will be exceptions for those living alone, or alone with children, who form extended households; for couples in non-cohabiting relationships; for the provision of informal childcare by, for example, grandparents; and for tradespeople.

Those new restrictions apply to people’s homes – in other words, to private indoor spaces.

Rules for meeting other people in public indoor spaces that are subject to strict regulation and guidance, remain the same – you can meet with one other household only and in groups of no more than 6 people.

As I said earlier, we will be working with local authorities to strengthen inspection and enforcement in indoor public places and enforcement action, including closure if necessary, will be taken against shops, pubs, restaurants or other premises that do not ensure compliance.

You can also continue to meet with one other household in groups of up to 6 outdoors, including in private gardens.

Outdoors, though, we intend to exempt children under 12 – both from the limit of 6 and the limit of two households. There will be no limits on the ability of children under 12 to play together outdoors.

And young people aged 12 to 18 will be exempt from the two household limit – they will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 6, though we will need to monitor this carefully.

And let me say to teenagers in particular – I know how miserable this is for you and you have been so patient. We are trying to give you as much flexibility as we can. In return, please work with us and do your best to stick to the rules, for everyone’s sake.




Presiding Officer,

The last new restriction I want to cover today relates to travelling by car.

We know, again from Test & Protect data, that sharing car journeys presents a significant risk of transmission.

We are therefore advising against car sharing with people outside your own household.

Finally, it is also important that I indicate today, in light of the current situation, that the routemap changes with an indicative date of 5 October are unlikely to go ahead on that timescale.

Presiding Officer,

I want now to touch briefly on an issue that has been the subject of media speculation in recent days – namely the possibility of a so called circuit breaker, timed to coincide with the October school break, and during which people would be given much more comprehensive advice to stay at home.

The Scottish Government has not made any decision at this stage to implement such a policy – however, we are actively keeping it under review.

What I would say to people now is this. Please think of the October break as an opportunity to further limit social interaction.

And, given that this is a global pandemic, please do not book travel overseas for the October break if it is not essential.

Finally, let me say a few words to people who were shielding earlier in the year. I know you will be feeling particularly anxious.

However the best way to keep you safe is by reducing the spread of the virus in our communities – which is what today’s measures are all about.

The steps I have outlined today will help keep you safe, so please follow the guidance for the general population with great care.

And if you haven’t signed up for our text alert service, please do so.

Fundamentally, I want to assure you that your safety is uppermost in our minds.

But we do not believe that asking you to return to shielding is the best way to secure it, given the impact it would have on your mental and physical health. In our view, all of us acting together to reduce the spread of the virus is a better way to keep you safe.

Presiding Officer,

These are the changes we are making now. I can’t rule out the need to make more – nationally or locally – in the weeks to come.

Indeed, we intend to publish soon an overall strategic approach to escalation in areas with particularly high rates of transmission.

However, I am acutely aware that the restrictions I have announced today will not be welcome.

But in our judgment they are absolutely essential.

Inevitably, some will think they go too far and others that they don’t go far enough.

But we have tried to get the balance right – and to act urgently and in a substantial and preventative way now to try to get the situation under control quickly.

We judge that this will give us the best chance of avoiding tougher or longer lasting measures later.

But I know that doesn’t make this any easier.

Many people, me included, will find not being able to have family and friends in our own homes really difficult – especially as the weather gets colder.

But today’s measures – although tough – are not a lockdown. They are carefully targeted at key sources of transmission. And we believe they can make a significant difference, while keeping our schools, public services and as many businesses as possible open.

However the success of these measures depends on all of us.

The decisions that we all make as individuals in the weeks ahead, will determine whether they work, and how quickly they can be lifted.

That fact isn’t just a reminder of the responsibilities we all owe to each other – it is also a reminder that we are not powerless against this virus.

None of us can guarantee that we won’t get Covid, or pass it on. But we can all make choices which significantly reduce our own risk, and help to keep our communities safer.

So please, make those choices. Stick with this.

Please don’t meet people in their homes or your home – because that is where the virus often spreads.

Limit how often you meet up with people in public places – and abide by the rules in force there.

Work from home if you can.

Follow the advice on self isolation if you have symptoms, test positive, or are a contact of someone who has the virus.

Download the Protect Scotland app.

And when you do meet other people, remember FACTS at all times.

Face coverings in enclosed spaces.

Avoid crowded places.

Clean your hands and hard surfaces.

Keep 2 metre distance from other households.

And self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

Keeping to all these rules isn’t easy – but they remain the best way for all of us to protect ourselves, each other, the NHS and ultimately save lives.

Presiding Officer,

All of this is incredibly tough – and six months on it only gets tougher.

But we should never forget that humanity has come through even bigger challenges than this – and it did so without the benefits of modern technology that allow us to stay connected while physically apart.

And though it doesn’t feel like this now, this pandemic will pass.

It won’t last forever and one day, hopefully soon, we will be looking back on it, not living through it.

So though we are all struggling with this – and believe me, we all are – let’s pull together.

Let’s keep going, try to keep smiling, keep hoping and keep looking out for each other.

Be strong, be kind and let’s continue to act out of love and solidarity.

I will never be able to thank all of you enough for the sacrifices you have made so far.

And I am sorry to have to ask for more.

But if we stick with it – and stick together – I do know we will get through this.

Coronavirus update from the First Minister (21 April 2020)

First Minister NicolaSturgeon: “As of 9am this morning, there have been 8,672 positive cases confirmed, an increase of 222 since yesterday.

While I would still urge caution in interpreting these figures, I remain cautiously optimistic that, while the numbers being admitted to hospital are still fluctuating, they appear to be broadly stable. Secondly, the number being admitted to intensive care are reducing.”

“It’s not too long ago we were seriously worried about the potential for our hospital capacity to be overwhelmed by now. The fact it’s not is down to the planning done in the NHS, but more than that, it is down to the high compliance with the lockdown restrictions.

My thanks to all of you for helping us ensure the NHS has been able to cope, although the work they do is very difficult and very challenging.

Each of these deaths represents much, much more than a statistic. They each represent an individual who was loved by family and friends and whose loss is a source of intense grief. I want to extend my sincere and deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.

Dealing with this public health emergency has, in itself, created an economic emergency. It estimates Scotland’s economic output could fall by a third during this process of social distancing, broadly in line with last week’s projections for the UK as a whole from the OBR.

It is likely there has been a significant increase in unemployment since the end of February. Since March 15th there have been 130,000 new claimants for Universal Credit in Scotland. In the comparable period last year that number was 15,500.

The Scottish Government’s immediate focus, working with the UK Government, has been on trying to mitigate the impact of this economic shock on people’s wellbeing and on protecting the economy’s productive capacity for the future.




Our overall package of support for businesses in Scotland now totals more than £2.3bn, including business rates relief for many sectors and grants for small businesses.

The Economy Secretary will set out later today how £100m of funding we announced last week will be used to support people, for example those who have become recently self-employed and might not be eligible for other forms of support.

The health of the economy is one of the things we must consider as we think about how to emerge from this period of lockdown. The plans we will publish this week will set out some of the factors we will have to weigh up working to a point when we can allow some businesses to reopen, albeit with some social distancing measures in place. But the economic harm being caused by this virus is not in itself a reason to come out of lockdown early.

Indeed, dealing with this public health emergency and continuing to suppress the virus is an absolute prerequisite for a sustainable economic recovery.

The work we will publish towards the end of this week will set out in more details the principles that will guide us as we seek to restore as much normality as we can to everyday life without risking a resurgence of this virus that we know can and is doing so much harm.

I am very grateful, just as I am to every individual who is complying with these restrictions, to all businesses who’ve acted responsibly by closing their businesses or by ensuring safe social distancing.

When I spoke to you last Tuesday I said The Scottish Governement would launch a new mental health campaign. That campaign, the Clear Your Head campaign, starts today.

It highlights practical steps that all of us can take to look after our mental health better – sticking to our routine, staying active within the current guidelines, staying in touch with people, and taking a break from news or social media from time to time.

It also points people to places you can get help and advice, for example, NHS Inform, helplines including NHS24 Breathing Space, the Samaritans and the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

What the campaign recognises is that the current lockdown is really tough for everyone. Everyone will be experiencing it differently but it is tough for everyone, without exception. And it is OK not to be feeling OK at times right now.

We all need to be looking out for each other, to show kindness and compassion, solidarity, even as we stay physically separate. We should also do what we can to look after our own mental health, and the campaign provides good advice on that.

These restrictions are tough and they will get tougher, not easier. And I know everybody is feeling that increasingly. But they are essential, and as some of the statistics show, they are making a difference.

By staying at home we are helping to slow the spread of this virus, we are protecting the National Health Service, and we are saving lives.”




Nicola Sturgeon’s Statement on Scotland’s Future (31/01/20)

Speech by The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon at Dynamic Earth Edinburgh, commenting on the Scottish Government position on Brexit and the case/strategy for a new Independence Referendum.

“This is a pivotal moment for the UK and Scotland.

Tonight, the UK will leave the European Union.

That will be a moment of real and profound sadness for many of us across the UK.

And here in Scotland, given that it is happening against the will of the vast majority of us, that sadness will be tinged with anger.

It would be easy to dwell on that.

On what is being taken away from us.

But that is not what I want to do today.

Instead I want to focus on something much more important.

Hope.

Hope of a different and better future for Scotland.

A future in which our path as a country is determined by those who care most about Scotland’s interests – all of us who live here.

A future in which we don’t have to choose between a relationship with our closest friends across the British Isles and our ties with Europe – but can instead build and nurture both.

A future where our own Parliament and Government – accountable to the people of Scotland – are responsible for the decisions and the international partnerships that shape our direction and our destiny.

A future where we continue to be an open, welcoming place to live, study and work.

And a valued member of the European family of nations.

After tonight, that future is only open to us with independence.

Our task is to persuade a majority of people in Scotland to choose it.

WATCH THE SPEECH ON VIDEO




So I want to focus today on the work we need to do to persuade a majority in Scotland that independence is the right choice – and how in the process of doing that, we will secure our right to choose it in a referendum.

Of course, people have differing views on whether or not Scotland should be independent, but the case for us having the right to make that choice is overwhelming.

As of 11pm tonight, the UK that Scotland voted to remain part of in 2014 – a UK inside the EU – will no longer be a reality.

The status quo that a majority voted for will no longer exist.

There will be a material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014.

Leaving the EU is a fundamental change in Scotland’s constitution.

The consequences will be significant, even if they are not all felt immediately.

Right now, Scotland does not have the powers to mitigate many of these consequences let alone avoid them altogether.

And the UK Government has shown no interest at all in finding ways to accommodate our distinctive views and interests.

Take the vital issue of migration.

On Monday I published proposals that would, in a post Brexit world and within current constitutional arrangements, allow Scotland to address our distinctive population challenge.

These proposals have significant support from across civic Scotland and the business community. And yet within hours and with no consideration whatsoever they were dismissed out of hand.

Fewer people able to come to Scotland to live and work risks a working age population going into decline. That means fewer people available to do the jobs that need done in our private businesses and public sector, including our NHS. And it means fewer people paying the taxes that we need to fund these public services.

It means an economy stagnating not growing, and Scotland not reaching our full potential.

That is just one way in which we know already and with certainty that the folly of Brexit coupled with the deaf ear of Westminster will damage Scotland’s prosperity and wellbeing.

And as will become stark in the months ahead, it will not be the only consequence of Brexit that will be harmful to Scotland.

Exactly how Brexit will develop beyond tonight is not yet certain.

Negotiations about the terms and nature of the UK’s new relationship with the EU haven’t started yet. New cliff edges have been created by the UK Government and a devastating No deal outcome at the end of the transition remains possible.

For my part, I hope that the future relationship will be a close one, and I will do all I can to encourage that.

But be under no illusion.

All the signs from this Tory government are that instead of co-operation and close relationships they are heading for divergence and de-regulation.

What that will mean in the future for workers’ rights and environmental protection, for the shape of our economy and the nature of our society will be profound.

And, while this will be of little interest to a Tory government, the impact will be felt most by those who already have the least – the vulnerable and the poor.

So we know that change is coming.

But it does not have to be the change the Tories want to impose on Scotland.

A new independence referendum will put the decision about the best path for Scotland into our own hands.

And there is a cast-iron mandate from the public and from the Scottish Parliament for a referendum.

The SNP has won three successive parliamentary elections on the commitment to give people the choice.

And this week the Scottish Parliament has endorsed that position.

That the Tories are trying to block a referendum only shows their contempt for democracy in Scotland.

And – somewhat counter productively for them – it serves to illustrate how unequal this supposedly equal union is.

We should also remember this.

Fundamentally, the Tory position is a sign of weakness not strength.

If they had any confidence in the argument for the Westminster union, they would have no problem with the people of Scotland having the right to choose.

It is the fear of defeat that is making them so desperate to deny us the choice.

And we should draw great encouragement from that.

What we in the independence movement must not do is allow a sense of frustration – understandable though it may be – to take us down dead ends or weaken our sense of purpose.

We mustn’t let the Tories turn a positive, persuasive and invigorating discussion about the best future for our country, into an arid and bitter argument about process and procedure.

We must stay the course – even if it sometimes feels difficult.

And that’s not caution talking. It’s realism.

For me to pretend that there are shortcuts or clever wheezes that can magically overcome the obstacles we face might make my life easier in the short term – but it would do a long term disservice to the independence cause that I, like so many, have dedicated my life to.

My job is to lead us down a credible path that can deliver independence.

And that is what I am absolutely determined to do.

To achieve independence, a referendum, whenever it happens – whether it is this year as I want, or after the next Scottish election – must be legal and legitimate. That is a simple fact.

It must demonstrate that there is majority support for independence.

And its legality must be beyond doubt. Otherwise the outcome, even if successful, would not be recognised by other countries.

And the best way to achieve that, even though it may not be ideal, is to reach agreement on a transfer of power to the Scottish Parliament, just as we did for 2014.

It has been suggested, though, that in the absence of such an agreement, it might be legal for the Scottish Parliament to hold a consultative referendum – to establish the opinion of the Scottish people even though agreement would still be required to implement a pro independence outcome.

So let me address that.

The issue of whether the specific constitutional reservation in the Scotland Act puts any form of independence referendum outside the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or instead leaves open scope for a non-binding consultative vote – has never been tested in court.

That means it cannot be said definitively that it would not be legal, but equally it cannot be described as being beyond legal doubt.

If a proposal for a referendum on that basis was brought forward it would be challenged in court.

If a court ruled that it was legal, it wouldn’t be a “wildcat referendum” as our opponents like to brand it – it would be within the power of the Scottish Parliament.

Should the UK Government continue to deny Scotland’s right to choose, we may reach the point where this issue does have to be tested.

I am not ruling that out.

But I also have to be frank. The outcome would be uncertain. There would be no guarantees.

It could move us forward – but equally it could set us back.

So my judgment at this stage is that we should use our energies differently.

We must focus firmly on building and winning the political case for independence.

That is necessary to win a referendum.

But it is also how we will secure one.

And though we have made much progress – as yesterday’s opinion poll showed – we have more work to do.

So let me set out some of the steps we will take.

Firstly, I will continue to do all that I can to secure a referendum this year.

And that’s for a reason.

Brexit has put Scotland on the wrong road. And the further down it we go, the longer it will take and the harder it will be to get back on the right one. We need back on the right road as soon as possible.

To that end, we have informed Parliament this morning, that following the passage of the Referendums Bill at the end of last year and this week’s vote in favour of a referendum, we will ask the Electoral Commission to re-test the question – ‘should Scotland be an independent country?’

That question is simple, intelligible and well recognised across the country, but Parliament made clear it wanted it re-tested and it is the next practical step we need to take within our powers to prepare for a referendum.

We will also build on the vote in Parliament this week by seeking to broaden the coalition of support for Scotland’s right to choose.

In the first instance we will invite Scotland’s elected representatives – MSPs, MPs, the MEPs elected last year and council leaders – to come together to endorse a modern Claim of Right for Scotland through a new Constitutional Convention.

To declare that it is for the Scottish Parliament to decide whether and when there should be an independence choice and build support for that principle amongst civic Scotland.

In the SNP and in the Scottish Government we will also step up work on building the substantive case for independence.

In September I confirmed that the Scottish Government would start the work needed to ensure that people have the information they need to make informed choices about the future of the country.

In the coming months, the Scottish Government will publish the outcome of that work.

The “New Scotland” series of papers will seek to provide the information and answers people want.

They will provide detail on how Scotland can make the transition from a Yes vote to becoming an independent country.

And they will set out ideas and options for how we can use the powers of independence to build a better future – to grow a stronger and more sustainable economy, tackle poverty and inequality, better meet the climate challenge and expand opportunity for our country and for each and every person who lives here.

The work of the SNP’s Social Justice Commission is a vital part of this and is well underway, engaging with organisations across Scotland.

The Commission will shortly publish proposals for wider debate in the SNP and across the country on how we can use the powers of independence to make Scotland the fairer country we all want it to be.

And from the Spring, we will respond to the report of the Citizens Assembly and engage with its views on what kind of Scotland people want to see and how we can achieve it.

We will do all of this recognising that the SNP is only one voice, and that policy in an independent Scotland will be determined by the outcomes of democratic elections.

Persuading those who are not yet persuaded requires information and answers, but at its heart it requires conversation.

Open and frank discussion about what the people across our country want for themselves, their families and communities, and how best to achieve it.

That is the task of every pro-independence activist around the country.

And as we showed in December’s general election – when we do the work and offer leadership and vision, we can and we do win.

Our party campaign is therefore ready to ramp up. We will double SNP campaign spending this year to support new independence materials, local newspaper adverts and a new campaign film focused on undecided voters.

And as we campaign, it is vital that we listen and engage respectfully.

There are many people who voted No in 2014 now thinking about independence differently in light of Brexit.

We must show that we understand the complexity of the issues they grapple with and that for many emotions will be mixed.

So we must make our case with passion but also with patience and respect.

And we must never stoop to the level of our political opponents.

Boris Johnson has demonstrated that in this debate there is no line he will not cross.

It’s not just his dismissal of election results in Scotland and his derision at votes in the Scottish Parliament.

This week he described serious, considered and widely supported Scottish Government proposals on migration as “deranged”.

The Tories are not governing Scotland – they are goading Scotland.

But as a wise woman once said – when they go low, we go high.

So let’s keep focused on the job at hand – and take heart from the fact that we are winning.

And we are.

The SNP has existed now for more than 80 years.

I feel immensely privileged to lead it.

And if there are ever days when it feels tough, I think of how much tougher it must have been for the party’s founders, when independence wasn’t even a distant dot on the horizon.

If they had given in to impatience or frustration, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

We have never been stronger than we are now.

We are part of a wider, vibrant Yes movement.

And independence has never been closer.

It is our strength that will make it a reality.

The strength of our arguments.

The strength of our unity and our commitment to the cause.

The strength of our values.

The strength of our vision of an open, progressive, outward looking Scotland for all who live here, no matter where they come from.

An independent Scotland will be born from the strength of our capacity to persuade.

History tells us that change often comes quickly after many years when the obstacles seemed great.

Or as the great Nelson Mandela said – ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’.

In Scotland I believe we are on the cusp of such a moment.

For those of us lucky to be part of the independence movement today we know the groundwork has been laid and we have it within our grasp now, not just to imagine a better future, but to achieve it.

Now is the time to stay focused and resolute. It is time to build our strength to secure the right to choose and win Scotland’s independence.”




Nicola Sturgeon’s statement on Scotland’s right to choose 19/12/19

There are moments in history when it is important to stand back from the day to day twists and turns of politics and consider some fundamental questions.

This is such a time for Scotland.

The experience of the last three and a half years has raised big questions about how we see ourselves as a country and our place in the world.

It has raised questions about our voice and our democracy.

And about our future – what kind of country and society do we want to be?

At the heart of these questions is a belief held by almost everyone in Scotland that we are a nation.

No better and no worse than any other – but an equal nation.

And as a nation, our future – whatever we choose it to be – must be in the hands of the people who live here.

We can choose to stay part of the Westminster union or we can choose – as I would – to be independent.

But the choice must be ours.

Today, I am publishing the constitutional and democratic case for Scotland having that choice.

It is rooted in the principle of self-determination, in the material change of circumstances since the 2014 exercise of that right, and in the democratic mandate that exists for offering the choice afresh.

In a voluntary association of nations such as the UK, it cannot be in the interest of any part for our right to choose our own future to be conditional, or time limited, or a one off.

Nor is it right for it to be over-ridden by a Prime Minister, or indeed a First Minister.

It is a fundamental right of self-determination.

The ability for Scotland to exercise that right now matters, because the alternative is a future that we have rejected being imposed upon us.

Scotland made clear last week that it doesn’t want a Tory government, led by Boris Johnson, taking us out of Europe and down a path we haven’t chosen.

But that is the future we face if we don’t have the opportunity to consider the alternative of independence.

And it is a very different future to the one in prospect when Scotland voted No to independence in 2014.

There has been a material change in circumstances.

There is also a democratic mandate to offer that choice.

In the election last Thursday the SNP campaigned explicitly on the clear pledge that Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands.

Our manifesto said this:

“An SNP election victory will be a clear instruction by the people of Scotland that a new referendum on independence should be held next year, on a precise date to be determined by the Scottish Parliament.”

The SNP won that election – convincingly – with a higher vote share and a higher percentage of seats than the Tories won UK wide.

The Conservatives in Scotland, who campaigned relentlessly on the single issue of opposition to another referendum, lost – overwhelmingly.

The SNP victory last week follows others in 2016 and 2017.

So the mandate we have to offer the Scottish people a choice over their future is, by any normal standard of democracy, unarguable.

Now let me be clear – again – that I don’t take the outcome of an independence referendum for granted.

Nor do I assume that everyone who voted SNP last week necessarily supports independence.

I recognise the work we have to do to persuade a clear majority of people in Scotland that independence is the best future for our country.

That is why in the months ahead, we will update the detailed and substantive case for Scotland becoming an independent nation.

And, of course, in a referendum, those who believe that Scotland should stay part of the Westminster union will be able to make that case.

So I accept that the case for independence is yet to be won.

But the election last week put beyond reasonable argument our mandate to offer people in Scotland the choice.

We built a coalition around this principle.

And now the election is over, I believe an even broader coalition is being formed.

The right to choose is not just a demand from me as First Minister or from the SNP.

It is based on the solemn right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.

The Scottish Government believes that right should be exercised free from the threat of legal challenge.

In line with our values, we acknowledge that a referendum must be legal and that it must be accepted as legitimate, here in Scotland and the rest of the UK as well as in the EU and the wider international community.

We are therefore today calling for the UK Government to negotiate and agree the transfer of power that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

Together with the constitutional and democratic case for that transfer of power, we are also publishing the draft legislation that would give effect to it.

Of course, I anticipate that in the short term we will simply hear a restatement of the UK government’s opposition.

But they should be under no illusion that this will be an end of the matter.

We will continue to pursue the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose.

We will do so in a reasonable and considered manner.

And we are setting out that case in detail because we believe that the UK government – on this as on any issue – has a duty to respond in a similarly considered and reasonable manner.

Of course, much of the debate at Westminster has been based on the idea that it is the right of the Westminster Parliament and the Prime Minister of the day – not the people who live here – to determine Scotland’s future.

In this context the question is often posed to me – what will you do if Boris Johnson says no?

As I have said before, I will consider all reasonable options to secure Scotland’s right to self-determination.

In the New Year, I will also ask the Scottish Parliament to back the case we are publishing today, and we will work to grow and deepen the coalition of support for Scotland’s right to choose.

But the document we are publishing today turns the question on its head.

It is for the Prime Minister to defend why he believes the UK is not a voluntary union of equal nations.

It is for the Prime Minister to set out why he does not believe people in Scotland have the right to self-determination.

It is for the Prime Minister to explain why he believes it is acceptable to ignore election after election in Scotland and to over-ride a democratic mandate stronger than the one he claims for his Brexit deal.

The Conservatives’ only response to this, so far, has been the referendum result in 2014.

They use that result to justify doing whatever they like to Scotland no matter what people here think and no matter how much damage they cause to people’s lives.

The Tories are in effect saying to people here that democracy in Scotland stopped the day we voted No in 2014.

That cannot and will not hold.

In 2014 a majority of people in Scotland did indeed vote No.

But in 2016 an overwhelming majority voted to remain in the European Union.

Despite that overwhelming vote, within a matter of weeks the Tories intend to remove Scotland from the EU.

The future the people of Scotland once chose is no longer available to them.

But it’s not just the fact that the Tories want to take Scotland out of the EU against our will and contrary to the promises they made in 2014.

They dismissed a compromise proposal to stay in the Single Market.

They’ve taken powers from the Scottish Parliament.

They’re threatening workers’ rights and environmental standards.

Their migration policy will lead to a fall in our working population and hit our economy hard.

A Tory-Trump trade deal will leave our NHS at the mercy of US drugs companies.

Their social security policy will drive many more children into poverty.

They are imposing damaging change, stripping us of rights and re-making our future without our consent.

All of this, and more, is being done against the wishes of the people of Scotland.

That is not a Union worthy of the name – and it is most certainly not a Union of equals.

It is instead a raw assertion of Westminster control over Scotland. And it is not sustainable.

The Tory position will not prevail – democracy will.

So today I urge people in Scotland, regardless of our differing views on independence, to rally round the case for Scotland’s right to choose – our right to self-determination.

This is not the time for Scotland to give up on reasoned and democratic argument – it is the time to pursue it ever more confidently.

Let’s assert our rights as an equal nation and partner.

Let’s imagine a better country.

A Scotland which is at the heart of Europe.

A welcoming, outward looking nation.

A country where we get the governments we vote for.

A Scotland with full powers to lift children out of poverty, create a fairer country and a more prosperous economy.

A better future is possible.

And it is our future that is on the line – we have the right to decide what it should be.

So just as we did back in the 1990s to break Tory opposition and win a Scottish Parliament, let us now come together under the banner of our right to self-determination.

And let us put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.

Nicola Sturgeon’s statement on General Election Result 17/12/19

Presiding Officer, with your permission, I wish to make a statement on the outcome of last week’s general election.

Let me begin by thanking the returning officers and everybody involved in organising the election.

Their efficiency, integrity and hard work, in this case at short notice, are essential to the smooth conduct of our democracy.

I also congratulate successful candidates, from all parties.

And I commiserate with unsuccessful candidates. As somebody who stood unsuccessfully in two Westminster general elections, I have a good understanding of how they feel.

In addition, it’s worth recognising that this was the first December general election in more than 90 years.

I suspect that the candidates and activists who are still thawing out will hope that it is some time until the next winter election.

However, notwithstanding the challenges of bad weather and dark nights, it is important to note that turnout in Scotland actually increased, a fact that I am sure will be welcomed by all of us.


Presiding officer,

The election was comprehensively won in Scotland by the SNP.

Indeed, you have to go as far back as the election of Ted Heath in 1970 – the year I was born – to find a party that got a higher share of the vote across the UK than the SNP did in Scotland last week.

That is, by any measure, a significant vote of confidence. I and my colleagues will work each and every day to repay the trust that has been placed in us.

It was also an endorsement of our election message – that Scotland does not want a Boris Johnson government and we don’t want to leave the EU; and that, while opinions may differ on the substantive question of independence, we do want Scotland’s future to be in Scotland’s hands.

By contrast, while the Conservative Party won a majority UK wide, they were once again heavily defeated here in Scotland, having fought the election on the single issue of opposition to an independence referendum.

They lost not just vote share, but also more than half of their seats.

In fact, the Conservatives have now lost 17 consecutive Westminster elections in Scotland – stretching back to 1959.

But in spite of that, we face a majority Tory government implementing a manifesto that Scotland rejected.

Furthermore, 74 per cent of votes in Scotland were cast for parties that either supported remaining in the EU or were in favour of a second EU referendum.

90 per cent of seats were won by pro EU or pro EU referendum parties.

But regardless, we are set to be dragged out of the EU against our will.

Presiding Officer, such a democratic deficit is not just undesirable, it is also completely and utterly unsustainable.

The fact is that this election demonstrated a fundamental point.

The kind of future desired by most people in Scotland is very clearly different to that favored by much of the rest of the UK.

It is essential therefore that a future outside of Europe and governed by an increasingly right wing Conservative government is not foisted upon Scotland.

Instead, we must have the right to consider the alternative of independence.

That is why, later this week, in line with repeated election mandates – reinforced once again on Thursday – I will publish the detailed democratic case for a transfer of power from Westminster to this Parliament to allow for an independence referendum that is beyond legal challenge.

This parliament will also vote on the final stage of the Referendums (Scotland) Bill which puts in place the framework for a future referendum.

There are already some signs that those who previously opposed an independence referendum are, when faced with the democratic reality of Thursday’s result, now re-thinking that position.

I welcome that. But let me be clear about this.

I do not assume that an acceptance of Scotland’s right to choose will always equate to support for independence – just as I do not assume that everyone who voted SNP last week is yet ready to vote for independence.

I recognise the work that those of us who support independence still have to do to persuade a clear majority in Scotland that it is the best way forward for our country.

But, nevertheless, it is clear that there is a growing, cross party recognition that election mandates must be honoured, that there has been a material change of circumstances and that the question of independence must be decided by the people and not by politicians.

Given the nature of what we are facing in terms of UK governance, this is now a matter of some urgency – which is why this government wants people to have a choice next year.

Back in the early 1990s, when Scotland was also facing the prospect of a fourth Tory government with no mandate here, there was a coming together of political parties, communities and civic Scotland.

That resulted in the establishment of this Parliament.

It has achieved much.

But a new, Brexit focused Tory government presents risks that few would have predicted at the dawn of devolution.

So I hope in the coming days and weeks we will see a similar coming together around the idea of Scotland’s right to choose a better future.

Of course, we must also re-double our efforts to protect Scotland as best we can with the powers we already have.

This government is determined to do that and I would ask other parties in this chamber to support us in that task.

To cite just one example, the Resolution Foundation last month published research showing that under Conservative plans for social security, child poverty could reach a 60 year high. By 2023, more than one in three children across the UK could be living in poverty. I am sure that no-one in this chamber will find that remotely acceptable.

That means our Child Poverty Action Plan and our work to implement the new Scottish Child Payment will be even more important than it was already.

And of course it now seems inevitable that at the end of January, Scotland will be taken out of the European Union against our will.

Throughout the Brexit process the Westminster government has ignored the wishes of the people of Scotland and the views of this Parliament.

Now it seems the Prime Minister is determined to quickly push through the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

This Parliament will have to consider whether or not it will give consent to this Bill.

If the UK Government was to press ahead without that consent it would be further proof of Westminster’s contempt for devolution and its willingness to tear up established constitutional rules in its pursuit of Brexit.

The hard, possibly no deal, Brexit favoured by the Prime Minister poses a real danger to our economy and to social and environmental safeguards, at a time when we must substantially step up our efforts to tackle climate change.

Brexit will also put parts of our health service in the sights of US trade negotiators. It could mean, for example, that the NHS has to pay higher prices for drugs.

And of course Brexit is the cause of significant uncertainty and worry for our fellow EU citizens who contribute so much to modern Scotland.

Scotland must respond to and seek to overcome these challenges.

To that end, just as we did in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote in 2016, the Scottish government will in January convene a number of round table meetings, bringing together key groups that represent different aspects of Scottish life.

This will include civic society, trade unions and the business community, religious and minority groups and our partners in local government.

We will also engage with the Standing Council on Europe, to ensure that we take whatever steps we can to retain our relationships within Europe and identify ways to ensure our voice and our interests continue to be heard.

And we will listen to the conclusions of the Citizens’ Assembly when it reports in the spring about what kind of country we should be seeking to build.

There is also a particular and immediate challenge that will require cross-party co-operation.

This parliament is required to deliver a budget before the start of the next financial year, and Scotland’s local authorities would expect to set their budgets in late February or early March.

At this point, the UK Government has not confirmed when it will produce its own budget – and with it the block grant adjustments for Scotland – but it may not be until March.

While contingency planning and alternative options have been under consideration for some time, meeting this timetable will require parties to work together.

So in the spirit in which this Parliament was established, and notwithstanding the many disagreements between us, I hope we can find common ground and work together on a range of issues.

Presiding officer,

This is indeed a watershed moment for Scotland.

We are facing a Conservative government that Scotland did not vote for – indeed overwhelmingly rejected – and which many fear will pose a real danger to our country and the fabric of our society.

This parliament has a duty to protect the values that people in Scotland voted for.

I believe we can only fully do that with independence, and that is why later this week I will take the next steps to secure Scotland’s right to choose.

However independence is not an end in itself. It is all about building a fairer and more prosperous country and so we will also do everything we can to achieve that with the powers we have right now.

We must tackle child poverty, protect our NHS and help it overcome the challenges of rising demand; and we must support an open, innovative and export orientated economy.

We must also ensure that Scotland remains an open, welcoming, inclusive country, where people treat each other with kindness, dignity and compassion.

That is not a task for any one party – although as Scotland’s government, my party will take a lead.

But it is a job for us all. My commitment is that I will seek to work with members across the chamber and with civic Scotland as we face the challenges ahead – and as we seek to build the better, fairer and more prosperous Scotland that people voted for.