Nicola Sturgeon to insist Scotland intends to stay at the 'very heart' of Europe


Nicola Sturgeon will insist Scotland intends to stay at  the "very heart" of Europe, with the First Minister to unveil a new plan to boost business in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The SNP leader will make clear that "Scotland is open for business" with a four-point plan aimed at increasing trade and exports.

This also includes measures to increase Scottish representation in Europe, with new trade envoys to represent the country, while an investment hub will also be set up in Berlin.

Ms Sturgeon will say: "Let me be crystal clear about this - Scotland cannot trust the likes of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to represent us.

"They are retreating to the fringes of Europe; we intend to stay at its very heart where Scotland belongs."

The First Minister will also use her closing speech to the SNP conference to highlight the "stark" choice facing the country, between being governed by the "hard right" Tories at Westminster or the SNP in Edinburgh.

Ms Sturgeon will condemn the "deeply damaging and utterly shameful" messages on foreign nationals from the Conservative conference in Birmingham.

She will tell the SNP conference in Glasgow: "Make no mistake - today, we face a choice of two futures.

"After last week in Birmingham, there can be no doubt - the choice we face has never been so stark.

"The primary contest of ideas in our country is now between the SNP and the hard-right Tories."

While the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union in June, almost two thirds (62%) of Scots taking part in the referendum opted to remain.

The Brexit vote makes efforts to boost Scotland's economy "even more important", Ms Sturgeon will say.

The First Minister is expected to add: "Make no mistake, the growth of our economy right now is threatened not just by the prospect of losing our place in the single market - disastrous though that would be.

"It is also the deeply damaging - and utterly shameful - message that the Tories' rhetoric about foreign workers is sending and the uncertainty that message brings to our public services and Scottish employers.

"More than ever, we need to tell our European friends that Scotland is open for business."

Her four-point plan will also see the Scottish Government set up a new Board of Trade, while the envoy plan will see "prominent and successful Scots" recruited to help increase exports.

The agency Scottish Development International will also double the number of staff it has working across Europe.

While the conference comes just five months after the SNP won a third term in power at the Holyrood elections, Ms Sturgeon will say that "in many ways it feels like a political lifetime" since that victory.

"We are in a completely new era," she will say.

"A new political era and a new battle of ideas.

"A new era for our Parliament, with new powers and responsibilities

"And a new era for our relationship with Europe and the wider world. 

"There are challenges aplenty. And as the world around us changes, we must ensure that Scotland remains the progressive, internationalist, communitarian country that the majority of us living here want it be."