Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said her country must be given the right to decide its own future if its culture or economy is damaged by Brexit.
Speaking to the Seanad yesterday, she thanked the Irish people for their support for Scotland’s efforts to stay in the EU.
She said the option for another Scottish referendum must not be ruled out but refused to give a date on when she would seek one.
Members of the upper house gave her sustained applause before and after her speech, the first by a foreign sitting government leader to the Seanad.
She said that if Brexit was a danger to cultural or economic interests of Scotland, that its people must have a right to “set their own future”.
Ms Sturgeon also said that the first preference for Scotland with Brexit was for the UK to still be given access to the single market and free trade. She said the outcome of the Brexit referendum did not give London permission to take it out of the single market.
Scotland also supported the issue of open borders, she said, in reference to her own country and the North, once Brexit goes ahead.
Ms Sturgeon’s reflection that there were “special and unbreakable” bonds between Ireland and Scotland were seconded by senators in contributions during the morning.
While there were some empty seats in the chamber, the visitors’ gallery was full for this special moment for the Seanad.
Ireland had faced many challenges, she added. However, the one ahead with Brexit could affect “generations to come”, warned the first minister.
More than 1m citizens in Scotland had voted to remain, she reminded senators at the end of her two-day visit to Ireland.
A series of issues were raised by the senators during the exchanges including the shared position on same-sex marriage, efforts to reduce excessive drinking, and climate change.
Deputy Fine Gael leader James Reilly said he hoped Scotland’s voices are “heard in the [Brexit] negotiations”.
“Only harm can come from a hard border,” warned the former health minister. “We are Celts,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Rose Conway-Walsh reiterated that her party was strongly opposed to the North being forced out of the EU through Brexit.
Under Brexit, existing human rights laws might be unwound and the North needed to be given a special status, the senator warned. “The risk otherwise is to unravel the peace and progress of the last 20 years,” she said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said last week he believes that Brexit will take more than two years, the timeframe allowed once Britain triggers its exit. Mr Kenny said it would be impossible for Brexit to happen in any shorter timeframe.
Earlier yesterday, Ms Sturgeon told RTE’s Morning Ireland
that Mr Kenny had been supportive of Scotland but she understood that when it came to Brexit that his top priorities would be all-Ireland issues.
She also said she does not think there will be a second referendum on Brexit. She also said the North needed to be regarded as a special case with Brexit.
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