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– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th May 2019.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

3. Across the United Kingdom, parties backing remain outpolled those backing leave. The momentum is with us. Our chances of stopping Brexit are higher than ever, yet the First Minister chose this moment to introduce an independence referendum bill that divides the remain parties in Scotland. Her minister did not even mention a people’s vote in yesterday’s statement. Why cut and run when we are on the edge of victory?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

First, I thank Willie Rennie for pointing out the fact that the Scottish National Party won the European Parliament elections in Scotland. It was our best ever result in a European Parliament election—we won 50 per cent of the seats.

Secondly, I think—although I stand to be corrected if I have got this wrong—that it is factually inaccurate of Willie Rennie to say that Mike Russell did not mention a people’s vote in his statement yesterday. I think that he did mention a second European Union referendum.

The SNP supports a second EU referendum, and there is now an opportunity to bring together all those who support that in order to try to secure that outcome. That would be helped enormously, of course, if Labour—not just in Scotland but at a UK level—got off the fence and backed that outcome, too.

Willie Rennie’s position is that he believes that Brexit will be a disaster and that the UK should have a chance to reverse Brexit through a second referendum. I agree. Here is where we differ: he thinks that, if the UK does not take the option of reversing Brexit, Scotland should just have to accept that disaster and become a passive casualty of it. I do not agree. I think that Scotland should have the right to choose a different future—it should have the right to choose an independent future as a European nation.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

Nicola Sturgeon’s election letter to me, which was addressed, “Dear Edna,” did not mention independence. That was funny. She is at it again. She is desperate for the UK to fail so that she can push independence once again. She has even named a date, but the momentum is with remain. Speaker John Bercow will block a no-deal Brexit; the chancellor will bring down any no-deal Brexit Prime Minister; Boris Johnson is being taken to court for telling lies; and—for goodness’ sake—even Richard Leonard is backing a people’s vote. What more does she need? Be positive, First Minister. Will she come with me and fight to win a people’s vote, or will she, once again, pursue independence no matter what happens?

The First Minister:

Sorry—I will take a moment to stop laughing before I answer Willie Rennie. I am not sure that I want to follow him, given that we got 38 per cent of the vote in the European elections compared to the—I think—12 per cent that the Liberal Democrats scored. I have to say that that was an improvement, so well done to them for that. [


.] Alex Cole-Hamilton is pointing out that they got 14 per cent. I still do not want to end up there, if he does not mind.

Willie Rennie says that he hopes that I will take the opportunity to call him Edna in the chamber. All that I can say is that he should be careful what he wishes for. What is that saying about being always a dame?

Frankly, I think that Willie Rennie is being a bit complacent about the risk of a no-deal Brexit. I hope fervently that there is not a no-deal Brexit; however, given the Conservative Party’s direction, I do not think that we can afford to be complacent about that at all. We will continue to argue for a people’s vote and the revocation of article 50 as an alternative to a no-deal Brexit, and we will work with whomever across the political spectrum to bring that about. If we do not succeed—I hope that we do succeed—I will not be prepared to allow Scotland to sink with the Brexit ship. I want Scotland to have an alternative and better future as an independent European country.