Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland's financial deficit no barrier to EU membership

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

Nicola Sturgeon has denied claims that Scotland's deficit could be a barrier for the country remaining in the EU.

Speaking to ITV News on Friday, the First Minister insisted Scotland's £14.8bn deficit should instead be blamed on the failures of the UK.

She said: "Yes we've got a deficit, most countries across the world have deficits.

"It's a bit rich of politicians who are advocating we stay part of a system that's left us with a deficit to argue that's the best future.

"Do we carry on with the policies that have put us in this position and are threatening to make it worse, or do we take control over our economy and our own hands so that we can work our way out of these situations".

The figure, which accounts for 9.5% of Scotland's GDP, is far higher than the 3% limit EU rules stipulate new members have when they join - and higher than struggling EU member state Greece.

"I don't think people really understand how offensive it is for people in Scotland - an economy that has renewables and life sciences, world leaders in food and drink and tourism - compared to Greece."

On Thursday, the First Minister announced plans for Scotland to proceed with publishing a Bill for a second independence referendum "within days", and told ITV News that Scotland will suffer if they're forcibly taken out of the single market.

"If Scotland finds itself taken out of the single market, then that is going to hit jobs, living standards, trade, investment - do we just want to go along with that, or do we want to look at whether independence offers a better prospect of a strong, healthy growing economy.

"The case two years ago [in the first referendum] was that voting 'no' was staying in the UK that was stable and certain and guaranteed place in the European Union, verses the uncertainty of independence.

"That's not the choice anymore. The UK is looking like a very uncertain, unstable place. Our EU membership - far from being guaranteed - is now at risk. It's a very different debate now to the one we had in 2014.

"Scotland should have the right to choose and I would have a responsibility to allow people in Scotland to have that choice."

In a sign of increasing tension, Sturgeon criticised Theresa May for the "disrespectful" language she used during the Conservative Party Conference and compared her to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

She said: "The language she used in the Tory party conference was language about Scotland effectively not knowing its place - we haven't really heard since the days of Margaret Thatcher.

"I don't think that message is particularly conducive to this idea of the UK is an equal partnership.

"Otherwise, what she's saying to Scotland is 'Your voice doesn't matter, how your vote doesn't matter, you'll do what we say and just have to grin and bare it.'

"If she genuinely wants to present the UK as a partnership of equals then I think it's about time she started showing a bit more respect to the way in which Scotland voted.

"62% of people who voted in Scotland voted to stay in the European Union, and yet what we heard last week was the suggestion that it somehow didn't matter. Well it does matter. It matters a lot.