Ms Sturgeon attended Tuesday’s EU leaders’ summit in the wake of the Brexit vote, and stressed to the heads of State of the remaining 27 countries that ‘Scotland did not let them down’, and called for the EU ‘not to let Scotland down either’.
European Council president Donald Tusk declined Ms Sturgeon’s request for a meeting, saying ‘now is not the time’, but EU Parliamentary president Martin Schultz is said to have ‘listened attentively’ to what the SNP leader had to say.
She does not have any immediate plans for a second Scottish independence referendum, or ‘IndyRef’, until she sees how negotiations work out, but has not ruled out doing so if there is no way of Scotland retaining its ties with the EU without leaving the United Kingdom.
“I don’t underestimate the challenges ahead,” she admitted.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he would ‘listen attentively’ to Sturgeon over the coming months, and that Scotland ‘had earnt its right to be heard’ in the EU.
“Neither Donald [Tusk] nor I intend to interfere in what is in fact a British process – it’s not our obligation, and it’s not our job,” he stressed, making it clear that it was not up to the EU to influence or try to block any form of independence referendum by a region of a member State.
He denied rumours he was due to resign over the Brexit vote for ‘not having influenced the campaign to remain’, saying: “I’d recommend people take a close look at my CV, because if they do, they’d come up with a very different conclusion,” and added that both the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ camps had requested Europe did not show any bias ahead of the referendum.
Sturgeon said she had left the meeting ‘optimistic’ about the likelihood of Scotland being heard, and that she had ‘seen lots of smiley faces’ and been wished lots of luck on behalf of her region in its desire to remain in the EU.
She stressed that as First Minister for Scotland, it was her job to look out for the interests of the Scottish people and try to fulfil their democratic wishes, which had come across loud and clear after the voting results were published.
Every constituency in Scotland registered a majority of ‘Remain’ votes, and 62% of those who cast their ballot chose to stay in the EU – even higher than the pro-EU voters in all bar five boroughs in London, although less than Gibraltar where 96% of voters wanted to remain.
But Ms Sturgeon may face problems ahead if any vote for Scotland to remain in the EU relies on a unanimous agreement by the remaining 27, and if just one veto is enough to keep the region out.
Spanish president Mariano Rajoy has refused to enter into the subject, saying: “If the UK leaves during the negotiations, Scotland will also leave the European Union’s institutions.”
Sturgeon said she was ‘not surprised’ and that it is ‘early days’, knowing how Spain is facing a similar issue with Catalunya’s own bid to secede
Rajoy denies his total rejection of a Scotland in the EU has anything to do with Catalunya.
“The fact that the UK is leaving the EU has nothing to do with the ideas floated by certain political leaders in Catalunya – if the UK leaves, then with it, all those who form part of the UK should go, and that’s got nothing to do with the Catalunya matter.”
He conceded that the UK’s departure should, however, be carried out cordially.
“Having said that about Scotland, we’re talking about a process that should be ordered and tranquil – but Scotland has no jurisdiction for negotiating in the EU; the Spanish government opposes this; and I’m sure the rest of the world agrees with us that the talks should not take place with anyone other than the government of the United Kingdom.
“All the rest are internal problems within the UK, but I’m radically against Scotland remaining if the UK leaves – the treaties are radically against it, and I expect the whole world is radically against it,” he concluded.
When asked if he would definitely veto an independent Scotland forming part of the EU, Rajoy insisted that the ‘here and now’ was what everyone should be focusing on.
French socialist president François Hollande also said he would not be prepared to discuss the matter with Scotland separately, and that any negotiations post-Brexit would be with the UK as a whole, and with its national leaders.
France has similar problems to the Spain-Catalunya struggle, since its north-western region of Brittany wants independence.