The Scottish Government is carrying out “appropriate planning” to prepare for the economic shock that a vote to leave the European Union would cause, the First Minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon said while she hoped next week’s referendum would not result in the UK quitting the EU, it is her “duty is to seek to protect Scotland’s interests in all circumstances”.
She confirmed to MSPs at Holyrood she is “ensuring that appropriate planning for all eventualities is being undertaken by the Scottish Government”.
The SNP leader also repeated her warning that if the vote on June 23 results in Scotland being removed from the EU “against our democratically-expressed will”, this could result in a second Scottish independence referendum.
Polls in Scotland have continued to show a majority of people want the UK to remain in Europe while more recent polls across the UK have put the Leave campaign in the lead.
The First Minister said that “if Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the European Union against our democratically-expressed will, then all options to protect our relationship with Europe and the European Union will require to be considered”.
She spoke out after being questioned by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale on the impact the EU referendum could have on Scotland.
Ms Dugdale, who raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions, warned that “sudden shocks” such as a vote for Brexit would hit the country’s economy and would also “have a damaging impact on our ability to fund public services”.
She asked Ms Sturgeon what contingency planning is being carried out in case there is a “shock to the UK economy”.
More than 300,000 jobs in Scotland are linked either directly or indirectly to the country’s EU membership, the First Minister told MSPs.
She added: “More than 40% of Scotland’s international exports go to countries within the single market, and of the more than 2,000 foreign-owned companies in Scotland, 40% are owned by firms that are based in other European countries.
“These are all positive reasons related to the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of people across Scotland for my conclusion that Scotland’s continuing relationship with Europe is absolutely vital.”
Ms Dugdale also stressed the referendum on Europe “is about securing hundreds of thousands of jobs, protecting the rights of workers and showing the world the type of country we want to be”.
The Labour leader highlighted her support “for the principle of working together with the other nations of the world” to tackle global issues such as climate change, terrorism and the refugee crisis.
Ms Sturgeon agreed with that “very strongly”, telling the chamber: “I believe passionately that Scotland should be an independent country and I very much hope in the near future we will be an independent country.
“But I also believe very strongly that in the modern, interdependent world we live in, that independent countries must work together to tackle the issues that no country can deal with on its own, and that does include issues like climate change, the refugee crisis and tackling terrorism.
“Independent countries working together on these issues make all of us stronger and safer.”