Nicola Sturgeon: Possibility of Boris Johnson as PM ‘beggars belief’

Scottish first minister does not rule out Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House during her visit to Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House during her visit to Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said it “absolutely beggars belief” the Conservative party would even consider electing Boris Johnson as British prime minister.

Mrs Sturgeon criticised the Tory frontrunner at a public interview in Dublin in which she has said that, aside from Brexit, “what has done most to trash the international reputation of the UK over the last few years has been his ridiculous tenure as foreign secretary. And now they are thinking, ‘fine, we’ll make him prime minister’.”

Mrs Sturgeon admitted her relationship with Theresa May had been “a tad strained” but said if Mr Johnson becomes her successor, it will be a case of “bring back Theresa”.

The Scottish First Minister was speaking at the Royal Irish Academy in an interview with journalist Dearbhail McDonald.

During her trip to Dublin, she also met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, business leaders and schoolchildren.

She admitted it was odd to be in Dublin when her party had done so well in the European Parliament elections, gaining three seats in the European Parliament and 38 per cent of the vote on a pro-Remain stance.

Mrs Sturgeon explained that her visit to Ireland was scheduled long before the Brexit impasse in the UK meant that Britain had to participate in European elections which was never intended to happen.

Mrs Sturgeon predicted that many more Scottish people will vote for independence in a future referendum having witnessed the solidarity that the EU had shown towards Ireland during the Brexit negotiations.

She said Scotland had been treated with “utter contempt by the Westminster system”. Scotland had voted 62 per cent to remain and the party at Westminster sought to find compromises to protect Scotland’s interests.

“We have been ignored. The Scottish parliament has been cast aside. Even in the process of the Brexit fiasco, they have taken powers away from the Scottish parliament in order to centralise all of this,” she said.

“It’s a real contrast. People are not blind to all of this. People are watching this and reaching conclusions. The people of Scotland have been treated with contempt by Westminster. People are contrasting that with Ireland which has been shown real solidarity by the European Union.

“Suddenly this idea of being a small, independent country within the European Union – you only have to look at Ireland to see the benefits of that.”

When asked if she thought Brexit would mean the break up of the UK, she responded, “Yes”. When asked how that makes her feel, she responded with another one word answer, “Good”.

When pressed on the idea of a second referendum on Scottish independence, Mrs Sturgeon suggested it will happen within the terms of the Scottish parliament by May 2021 and most likely in the second-half of next year.

She said the debate on Scottish independence before the 2014 referendum had been well-informed in contrast to the “line on the side of the bus” during the Brexit referendum, but that her country might also benefit from an Irish-style Citizens’ Assembly to debate the future of Scotland. She said the original backstop, which would have kept Northern Ireland within the customs union, had major competitive implications for Scotland.

“The importance of the Good Friday agreement and peace on the island of Ireland is absolutely paramount and the SNP would never take any position that compromises that,” she said.

“That being said, if Northern Ireland [is ] in the EU single market when Scotland isn’t, that would have huge implications for Scotland.

The Scottish First Minister said that while there are obstacles in the way of a proposal to build a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland, she did not rule out the idea which has been promoted by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). She said she believed there are other ways of strengthening relations between Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“I have representations made to me about the idea of a bridge, there are obviously a lot of challenges and things to be discussed there. Whether it’s around a bridge or in other ways strengthening the relationship between Scotland, the north of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a big priority for my government.”

In Northern Ireland, DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Sammy Wilson have both expressed their support for the building of a bridge to Scotland. Conservative Party leadership contender Boris Johnson also spoke in favour of such a bridge when he appeared at the DUP party conference in September. – Additional reporting PA