LONDON (Reuters) - Scotland’s parliament would consider blocking legislation on Britain’s exit from the European Union if that were necessary to protect Scottish interests, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday.
Scotland, a nation of five million people, voted to stay in the EU by 62 to 38 percent in a referendum on Thursday, putting it at odds with the United Kingdom as a whole, which voted 52 to 48 percent in favor of an exit from the bloc, or Brexit.
Under the United Kingdom’s complex arrangements to devolve some powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, legislation generated in London to give effect to the vote to leave the EU would have to gain consent from the three devolved parliaments.
Asked on BBC television whether she would consider asking the Scottish parliament to block a motion of legislative consent, Sturgeon said: “Of course.”
“If the Scottish parliament was judging this on the basis of what’s right for Scotland then the option of saying that we’re not going to vote for something that is against Scotland’s interest, of course that’s going to be on the table.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I care about the rest of the UK, I care about England, that’s why I’m so upset at the UK-wide decision that’s been taken. But my job as First Minister, the Scottish parliament’s job, is to judge these things on the basis of what’s in the interest of people in Scotland.”
Sturgeon, leader of a party that wants Scotland to become independent of the UK while remaining in the EU, has repeatedly said since the referendum result was announced on Friday that she would take whatever steps were necessary to ensure that Scotland’s democratic will was respected.
That means that a new referendum on Scottish independence was now “highly likely”, she has said, arguing that splitting away from the United Kingdom may be the only way for Scotland to remain in the EU while the rest of the UK exits.
Scots voted against independence by 55 to 45 percent in a 2014 referendum, after a campaign during which remaining in the EU was presented as one of the main attractions of sticking with the UK.
Asked what she would do if the UK’s central government tried to block Scotland from holding an independence referendum, Sturgeon has repeatedly said it was “inconceivable” that London would stand in the way of Scotland exercising its own democratic way.
Asked on the BBC if she could imagine the fury of British voters who had made the choice to leave the EU if the Scottish parliament blocked Brexit, Sturgeon said:
“I can, but it’s perhaps similar to the fury of many people in Scotland right now as we face the prospect of being taken out of the European Union against our will.”
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Conor Humphries