Sturgeon: Independent Scotland rejoining EU would need to confront border issues

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·3-min read

An independent Scotland would need to confront border issues with the rest of the UK if returning to the European Union, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Concerns have been raised by critics of Scottish independence who say Scotland rejoining the EU would result in a hard border with England.

The First Minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday that the government of an independent Scotland would negotiate terms to “allow businesses to keep trading”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “This is the frankness that certain sections of the media will seek to stir up trouble on – I am not denying that we would need to confront and resolve the issues of being in the European Union for the border between Scotland and England.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited the Edinburgh Gin Distillery on the election trail on Friday (Jane Barlow/PA)

“If we do that in a way that allows businesses to keep trading, because businesses are already paying the price of having a border because of Brexit, we open up the European Union again.

“That is massively important for Scottish businesses, and also makes Scotland more attractive again in terms of inward investment to secure that access to the single market.”

The First Minister also said Scotland would remain in the common travel area with the rest of the UK and Ireland, adding “nobody with any shred of credibility” is suggesting otherwise.

Ms Sturgeon asserted that next week’s Holyrood election is not about the specifics of independence and neither she nor her party plans to hold a referendum in the near future, but she was asked repeatedly about the functions of an independent Scotland.

Trident submarine
The SNP is opposed to keeping nuclear weapons in Scotland (James Glossop/The Times/PA)

She refused to say how long an independent Scotland would retain the Trident nuclear weapons system, to which the SNP is opposed.

When asked if it “could be years” after Scotland becomes independent before the missiles are removed from the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane, the First Minister said: “I want to see Trident removed from Scotland as quickly as possible, not least because I think there are many more important things we can do with the money that is invested in Trident.

“I’m not going to sit here right now and say exactly what that timescale will be other than I want it to be as quickly as is safely possible, and I’m saying to you very openly that safety is a priority.”

The Alba Party led by Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor Alex Salmond has said that if it wins any seats in next week’s vote, it will table a motion to instruct the Scottish Government to immediately begin negotiations with the UK Government on independence in the first week of the new parliamentary term.

When asked whether the SNP would vote for such a motion, the First Minister said she doubts whether Alba will return any MSPs, and added: “My immediate focus, if I’m re-elected next Thursday, is to get back to work to continue to steer this country through Covid.

Alex Salmond holding an Alba Party sign
Nicola Sturgeon said she doubts whether Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party will win any seats in next week’s election (Jane Barlow/PA)

“I don’t believe we should propose a referendum right at this moment.

I’m a life-long supporter in independence, I want Scotland to be independent. But firstly we’ve got to steer the country through the crisis and we’ve got to build the majority for independence through patient persuasion.

“People who are serious about achieving independence I think understand that.

“I think talk of supermajorities and gaming the system and trying to bulldoze our way to independence almost regardless of the state of public opinion risks putting those we need to persuade of independence off rather than pulling them towards us.”