Sturgeon vows to keep Scotland "at the very heart" of Europe

SNP leader has "never doubted" Scotland will "one day become an independent country"

Sturgeon vows to keep Scotland "at the very heart" of Europe

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish first minister | Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to keep Scotland “at the very heart” Europe and re-iterated her belief that "Scotland will one day become an independent country."

Addressing the Scottish National Party (SNP) conference in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon vowed to avoid "the fate of a hard Brexit".

Ms Sturgeon said she would work “with others across the political divide” to “try to save the UK as a whole” from that fate.

In the June referendum on Brexit, 62% of the Scottish electorate voted to remain in the EU.

Ms Sturgeon said her government would propose new powers to help keep Scotland in the trading area if the UK does eventually leave the single market:

"If [the Westminster government] insists on taking Scotland down a path that hurts our economy, costs jobs, lowers our living standards and damages our reputation as an open, welcoming, diverse country, then be in no doubt Scotland must have the ability to choose a better future,” she said.

"And I will make sure that Scotland gets that chance." 

Referring to her 30-year membership of the SNP, Ms Sturgeon said she had never doubted that, one day, Scotland would separate from the rest of the UK adding, "and I believe it today."

Ahead of the UK's exit from the EU, Ms Sturgeon told delegates that Scotland was establishing "permanent trade representation in Berlin," to help keep Scotland at the "very heart" of Europe. 

She also announced three further measures "to boost trade and exports."

In addition to the presence in Berlin, the Scottish government is to get a new "board of trade” as well as a "trade envoy scheme," in which "prominent Scots" will be asked to help "boost our export effort."

The number of "Scottish development international staff" working across Europe is also set to be more than doubled.  

On Thursday, Ms Sturgeon told the conference that the Scottish Government would publish a draft independence referendum bill for consultation as early as next week.

In response to the announcement, a Downing St spokesperson said the SNP must respect the result of the 2014 Scottish Independence Election.

Theresa May’s official spokeswoman said Nicola Sturgeon must respect the “once in a generation vote.”

"There was a referendum in 2014 that addressed this issue that was legal and fair. The result was decisive and both parties agreed at the time to respect it,” said the spokesperson.

"It was a referendum with a clear question on the ballot paper and we should respect the democratic decision that was made, just as we respect the democratic decision that was made on the referendum on the EU.”

Ms Sturgeon today described The Conservative party’s vision for the UK as "xenophobic, closed, inward looking, discriminatory."

"Let's be frank, the Tories are no longer the Conservative and Unionist Party,” she said.

"After last week, we should call them what they are - the Conservative and Separatist Party. Or Ukip for short."