Nicola Sturgeon to address Irish parliament and meet business leaders

Updated: 

Nicola Sturgeon is to address the Irish parliament as her two-day visit to strengthen ties between Scotland and Ireland after the Brexit result comes to a close.  

The First Minister is also meeting business leaders in Dublin on the final day of her trip.

Speaking at Trinity College Dublin on Monday, where she was awarded an honorary patronage from the university's Philosophical Society, she said Brexit could lead to Scottish independence.

The SNP leader warned London that if it tries to drive Scotland off a "hard Brexit cliff edge" then Scots would have the right to "choose other alternatives".

"I have always believed Scotland will become an independent country and I think it will become an independent country well within my lifetime - and this may be the moment for that," she said.

She also said a proposal to allow Britons to remain EU citizens after Brexit for a fee should not be ruled out.

The suggestion of individual EU membership for the 48% who voted Remain merits discussion, she said.

"We should be open-minded about solutions that can help, whether it is Scotland or individuals, who want to retain their citizenship, their relationship with the EU," Ms Sturgeon added.

The "associate citizenship" idea gained has gained the backing of Guy Verhofstadt, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator.

The former Belgian prime minister, who held talks with Brexit Secretary David Davis last week, said he liked the idea "that people who are European citizens and saying they want to keep it, have the possibility of doing so".

Ms Sturgeon said she was willing to consider the possibility as one of a number of "proposed solutions".

"We shouldn't be ruling out anything just now," she said.

"People say to me - as I'm sure they are saying to (Mr Verhofstadt) about that particular proposal - that is impossible, that could never work.

"Well, how do we know that?

"We are going into a period that is completely uncharted, in terms of what happens now."

She added: "We are going to have to be imaginative, innovative and creative in the period ahead, if we are going to come out of this Brexit scenario in good shape, without damaging the things that we value in the UK.

"So let us be open-minded about some of the suggestions."

Ms Sturgeon reiterated her belief that a second Scottish independence referendum is highly likely after Britain voted to leave the EU earlier this year.

But she added other options for Scotland to at least remain within the European single market are being explored.