In a speech to mark 20 years since Scotland voted to set up its devolved parliament, Sturgeon said all Holyrood’s parties should work together in the country’s national interest to get the best possible deal from Brexit.
She claimed the UK government was planning a power-grab that could reduce Holyrood’s powers over farming and fisheries, and fail to give it the powers it needed to boost immigration, protect human rights and increase its welfare powers.
“Twenty years ago we proved we could put differences aside to build a better democracy, a better economy and a better society,” Sturgeon said. “It’s time to go forward in that spirit again, not to allow ourselves to be blinded by our disagreements but to explore, identify and advance our areas of agreement instead.”
But Sturgeon told reporters she saw no reason to drop her pledge in June to hold a second independence referendum once the terms of Brexit were clear, a policy which could see her call for one in less than two years’ time.
To claims of hypocrisy from her opponents, Sturgeon said she wanted them to set aside their differences on independence and build a common front against a hard Brexit while the EU withdrawal bill was going through Westminster.
“I said in June there will be no further consideration of a timing of a referendum until the end of the Brexit process. I’m saying now I think we have an opportunity to look at other areas where we agree; it’s up to other parties where they want to meet us halfway on that but I’m certainly saying that we’re willing to do that,” she said.
“In a democracy you should be able to respect people’s different opinions and still find where there’s agreement,” she said. “Sometimes the national interest says put aside what you disagree on and come together on what you agree on.”
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said that if Sturgeon was serious about building cross-party consensus at Holyrood, she should pledge not to call for a second independence referendum until after the next Scottish parliament election in 2021.
Rennie said he would work on a joint stance but opposition parties would be deeply suspicious of this offer of compromise. Sturgeon had broken her promise last year not to use a cross-party consensus at Holyrood calling for significant devolution of EU powers to Edinburgh as an excuse for a second referendum, he said, after that call was rejected by the UK government.
“Nicola Sturgeon expects everyone else to agree to her demands but she shows no indication at all of understanding alternative views. And, what’s worse is that she misuses parliamentary support for her own narrow ambitions on independence,” he said. “So it would be once bitten, twice shy.”
Paul Masterton, one of the Scottish Conservatives’ 12 new MPs, said Sturgeon was wrong to claim again that Holyrood’s powers would be cut by Brexit. UK ministers had repeatedly promised its remit and powers would grow once EU powers were repatriated.
“People in Scotland are sick to death of the first minister using Brexit to manufacture more grievance. She cannot preach to others about consensus while she refuses to take the threat of another referendum off the table,” he said.
“The UK government has made it perfectly clear, on numerous occasions, that the powers of the Scottish parliament will not be diminished through this process.”
Sturgeon dropped her original demand for a second referendum by spring 2019 after the SNP lost 21 of its 56 Westminster seats, and nearly half a million votes, in the snap election in June. She said she accepted that was in part a backlash against her referendum policy.
This article was written by Severin Carrell Scotland editor, for theguardian.com on Monday 11th September 2017 16.26 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010