Sturgeon: Case for independence bigger than any one man or woman

Alex Salmond facing charges of attempted rape and sexual assault in court will not have an impact on any campaigns for another Scottish independence referendum, according to Nicola Sturgeon.

Her predecessor faced 14 charges when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday and said he was “innocent of any criminality”.

The current First Minister of Scotland told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the case for independence was “bigger than any one man” or woman and was not about personalities.

Ms Sturgeon refused to be drawn into whether she had been spoken to by Police Scotland about the case.

She said: “The developments of last week were a shock to everyone, and there’s absolutely no denying that. But because charges were brought last week these are now live criminal proceedings subject to the Contempt of Court Act so there’s not anything that would be appropriate for me, or anyone else, for that matter, to say at this time.

“I will not comment on any aspect of the police investigation. That’s not a matter of choice, necessarily – that is the obligations I, like everybody else, are under to respect due process. It would not be appropriate for me to do so.

“I don’t think it has an impact on the future political and constitutional direction of Scotland. The case for independence is bigger than any one man – it’s bigger than any one woman – it’s not about individual personalities, it is about what is best for the country now and in the longer term.

“It’s about how we put ourselves in the best position to protect our interests and build prosperity and fairness in Scotland.”

The 2014 independence referendum resulted in a 55.3% win for the no side over 44.7% voting yes.

But the First Minister remarked on the “material change in circumstances” in the last four years with Brexit coming to the forefront of politics “and being taken out of the single market against our will with damaging economic consequences”.

She also told the programme that SNP MPs on Tuesday would back Yvette Cooper’s amendment which would see Westminster vote on whether Article 50 is extended beyond the initial leaving date of March 29 if no deal is agreed by the end of February.

Mrs Sturgeon added: “I think the people in Scotland should have the ability to look again at independence… I don’t know if we’ll have no deal or if the UK will be leaving with a deal or whether Article 50 will be extended.

“But within that general time-frame, I’ve already said I will set out my views on the best optimal timing for the people of Scotland being able to look again at this issue of whether decisions should be taken here in Scotland, or whether we allow decisions to be taken in Westminster with all the damage that’s doing.

“I’m not going to get taken too far down the road of hypotheticals here. I want to see the UK, if possible, stay within the EU because, even if Scotland becomes independent, it’s in our best interest that the rest of the UK has a close constructive relationship with the EU, preferably that it remains a member of the EU.

“That’s why I’ve tried hard to be part of finding solutions for the whole UK. But I don’t want Scotland to be dragged out of the EU with all of the damaging consequences of that against our will.”

Willie Rennie
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie backs a People’s Vote on Brexit, but not a second independence referendum (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “We have made a simple request of the SNP Government. If they park the issue of independence for the rest of this Parliament then we could reach a comprehensive and progressive deal on the budget.

“We have repeatedly and consistently made that constructive offer so that Scotland can have a stable Scottish Government that focuses on the big challenges rather than getting bogged down with yet another massive and disruptive constitutional debate.”

Interim Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw MSP said: “No matter what happens within her own party or elsewhere, she won’t stop banging on and on about her campaign for another independence referendum. That is her only priority.

“With Sturgeon once again talking up a pact with Labour, it’s also clear that only the Scottish Conservatives can be trusted to stand in her way.”

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