Monday 25 July 2016 12:13 pm

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland can consider prospect of independence after Brexit vote

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland can again raise the prospect of independence in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Speaking in Scotland, Sturgeon said she is going to "explore every option to protect Scotland's interests" in the wake of the Brexit vote, including a possible second referendum.

"We can seek to find or create a solution that enables Scotland's distinctive voice to be heard and those interests to be protected within the UK or we can consider again the prospect of independence," she said.

But, she added: "If we find our interests can't be protected in a UK context, independence must be one of those options and Scotland must have the right to consider that option.

"The UK that we voted to stay part of in 2014, a UK in the EU, is fundamentally changing. The outlook for the UK is uncertainty, upheaval and unpredictability. In these circumstances it may well be that the option that offers us the greatest certainty, stability and the maximum control over our own destiny is independence."

Read more: Sturgeon puts emphasis on British-Irish council as means to keep ties to EU

Sturgeon also hit out at the fact that there is no clear plan for leaving the EU and that she fears a "hard Brexit".

Scottish voters backed remaining in the EU with a majority of 62 per cent to 38 per cent but the UK as a whole voted to leave with 52 per cent against 48 per cent.

Sturgeon said that while one million voters across Scotland voted to leave the EU, she will look at ways to protect Scotland's place within the 28-member bloc.

Laying out her five key interests in the Brexit negotiations, Sturgeon stressed the necessity for Scotland's democratic interests to be respected, highlighting the need to make sure Scotland's voice is heard and its wishes respected.

Second, she said economic interests much be taken into account, safeguarding free movement of labour, access to a single market of 500m people and the funding that our farmers and universities depend on.

Among the other three interests are social protection, solidarity and the need to have influence within the single market by having a say in the shape of them, not just abiding by them.

Scotland's shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: "It is right that the Scottish government should be examining how best to further our interests as the UK begins negotiations with the EU."

However, he added: "As two million Scots agreed in 2014, leaving the UK is not in Scotland's interests, and the Scottish government should therefore end its flirtation with yet another divisive referendum on independence.

"Its focus as we enter this crucial period should instead be to work with the UK government to get the right deal for families and firms across Scotland.​"​

Read more: May says Scotland should be "fully engaged" in Brexit talks

The first minister added: "I don't want to see border checks between Scotland and the rest of the UK," Nicola Sturgeon says, noting that Theresa May is currently in Northern Ireland attempting to reassure people there that there will not be renewed border checks.

Sturgeon also said that the referendum result showed a need for democratic renewal and tackling inequality at the top of the agenda. "A good start would be for the new Prime Minister and chancellor to abandon complexly the austerity economics pursued by their predecessors."

Theresa May has said that she will not trigger Article 50 before a UK-wide approach is agreed. 

Sturgeon acknowledged and welcomed the move, but said the British government has a "vested interest" in making sure that it demonstrates Scotland's voice is heard, while work has already started within a council set up by Sturgeon to review options.