By Simon Johnston of The Daily Telegraph
Nicola Sturgeon has been called “delusional” after arguing Scotland should leave the UK market where it sends more than 60 per cent of its exports and “quickly” join the EU.
In a car crash interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, the First Minister repeatedly refused to accept it was illogical to argue that Brexit would cost tens of thousands of Scottish jobs but leaving the UK would not carry a heavier economic cost.
Scotland could face a hard border with England if it was in the EU and the rest of the UK outside, but Ms Sturgeon said the full implications will only be known once a post-Brexit trade deal is agreed.
She argued that it is in Scotland’s interests to stay part of an EU single market “that is eight times the size of the UK market” in terms of population, despite Scottish companies trading far more with the latter.
The First Minister insisted a separate Scotland would be welcomed into the European Union “relatively” quickly while being able to use the currency of a non-EU state, the pound.
However, she failed to provide any detail on how Scotland would cut its huge deficit to the three per cent required by the EU, while raising the tens of billions of pounds of currency reserves it would require.
Health Board chair John Brown and Chief Executive Jane Grant must have been embarrassed watching Ms Sturgeon squirm in her chair when she was asked about the hospital’s troubles.
Ms Sturgeon also struggled to defend her government’s health record amid a slew of missed waiting times targets and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital scandal.
Mr Neil said: “You’ve called for legislation to protect the NHS from Donald Trump. Maybe the NHS needs legislation to protect it from Nicola Sturgeon?”
Ms Sturgeon’s lacklustre performance prompted a flood of comments on social media, with Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Tory leader, saying she had received “a doing on the hypocrisy of her Brexit vs Indy position and a doing over her domestic record in health.”
Paul Masterton, the Scottish Tory candidate in East Renfrewshire, said: “The reason the First Minister can’t give a timetable on what might happen to Scotland after independence is because the SNP doesn’t know what will happen. Yet still she insists we must have another referendum next year.”
Pamela Nash, the chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “These deluded claims from Nicola Sturgeon are an attempt to mislead voters. It would also almost certainly lead to a hard border with England, with massive economic and social consequences.”
Mr Neil pressed Ms Sturgeon on how she could cite research claiming Brexit could cost Scotland 80,000 jobs while “independence would create no trade friction with the UK, no job losses, no loss of living standards, nothing to see here, just move on.”
The First Minister said EU membership had diversified the Republic of Ireland’s export base and pointed out “we don’t yet know what the UK’s final relationship with the EU” will be.
She said: “When we have clarity on that, we have to understand those implications and we have to set out clearly how we deal with those implications in order to keep trade flowing between Scotland and England which is in our interests and in the interests of the rest of the UK.”
Challenged on whether Scotland could join the EU while using the currency of a non-member state, Ms Sturgeon said this was possible.
The First Minister added: “We would have a discussion with the EU about the journey an independent Scotland was on in terms of currency, and the accession if Scotland was already out of the EU to the point where we rejoined the EU.”
The Dumbarton Democrat gathered reaction to the interview from the SNP locally, not official quotes of course since the low brow mainstream members refuse to enter into the debate.
“(1) Set up one or two wholly hypothetical situations and demand from Nicola detailed, logical responses. Her answer that such situations would be considered if and when they occur, was not enough for him, even though that is what would have to happen.
“(2) Based his economic case against independence and accession to the EU on the frequently discredited GERS deficit figure for Scotland which, in any case, reflects (if it reflects anything) Scotland’s economy on a limited budget, with limited powers, and with the country treated as merely a part of the UK.
“(3) Castigated the Scottish NHS based on targets and deliberate media alarm-ism over (a) decades-long addiction problems and individual tragic cases of things going wrong in one or two hospitals – with no acknowledgement of general public satisfaction with, and regard for the service working under severe restraints.
“(4) Deliberately ignore the phrase “such as” in “such as being taken out of the EU against our will”, as if that were the only “material change in circumstances discernible in the last few years!
“(5) Finally, the old chestnut: there is no clear policy about currency. That is, well, simply untrue. Well done, Nicola. Let’s see how Boris fares.”
Respected Vale of Leven author and retired librarian, Billy Scobie, pictured left, said: “Of course there is a place for reasoned debate on such subjects as the economy, the EU, the NHS and currency.
“Of course the SNP side of such debate is well expressed by our First Minister and other SNP spokespersons, but…
“Personally I have always believed that, first and foremost, independence is a matter of fundamental national self-respect. I will never tire of saying so.”
Allan P Meikle said: “Well said Arthur , some of the posts [on social media] and comments I’ve seen regarding the interview are horrendous and not doing the indy cause justice. Nicola handled that oaf well despite his rude and nasty ways.”