First Minister visits campus to announce new indy drive

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Credit: George Vekic / The University of Stirling

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for a “new conversation” on Scottish independence, at an event held last week at the University of Stirling.

Sturgeon declared that the UK which has existed before the June 23 vote to leave the EU, has “fundamentally changed”.

She said: “In Scotland, we face that prospect not just of being taken out of the EU against our will, but being taken out of the single market altogether.

“I know that we are right to keep our third option on the table, and that is the option of considering again, in these very different circumstances, if Scotland should become an independent country.”

Immediately following the Brexit vote, Sturgeon made it clear that a second independence referendum was “on the table”.

The SNP had advocated for Scotland to remain in the EU.

Sturgeon also stressed the impact of Brexit on Scottish universities, with uncertainty surrounding programmes such as the European student-exchange programme Erasmus – the status of which is unclear following Brexit.

Detailing how the Scottish government will seek to protect Scotland’s place in Europe, Sturgeon placed emphasis on the status of higher education and students following Brexit.

She asked:“How can we protect…the place of our universities in Horizon 2020, the continued ability of our students to participate in Erasmus?”

During the 2016 Scottish elections, the SNP manifesto stated that the SNP would argue for a second referendum if there was a “material change in circumstances”, such as Britain’s exit from the EU against the will of Scottish voters.

Only 37% of Scots voted to Leave, with every local authority coming out in favour of remaining.

As part of this new conversation on independence, the SNP have unveiled a new “listening exercise” on independence: The National Survey.

The National Survey, a broad survey of political attitudes amongst Scots, asks how people voted in both the 2014 independence referendum and 2016’s EU referendum – and seeks to gauge how Scots feel about issues such as the economy, national identity and foreign policy.

Pitched as a means of “forging a way forward”, Sturgeon implored all Scots, regardless of their political persuasions, to take part.

She said: “We want to know the concerns that people have and the questions that they want answered. We want to build, if we can, a consensus on the way forward”.

The National Survey will run until St Andrew’s Day on November 30.

Sturgeon said that this debate over independence will not simply be a repeat of the 2014 referendum, and suggested that views among Scots regarding independence will have changed since then.

She said: “I suspect support for independence will be even higher if it becomes clear that it is the best or the only way to protect our interests.”

Recent polling has suggested that support for independence is still at a minority among people in Scotland.

Despite seeing a boom in support for independence immediately following the Brexit vote on June 23, that enthusiasm seems to have died down again.

A new Yougov poll has support for Yes at 40% and No at 46%, with 50% of Scots opposing a new referendum before the UK officially leaves the European Union.

See the Freshers edition of our paper for full coverage, available on campus from Friday September 9.

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