First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

London — Scotland could suspend its drive to become independent if Britain avoids a "hard Brexit" that loses it access to the European Union’s single market, the head of its secessionist government said on Friday.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister, said she still wanted Scotland to remain a member of the EU, but was open to finding a Brexit deal that suited all parts of the UK.

While the UK voted narrowly for Brexit, voters in Scotland wanted to remain in the EU by a margin of two to one. Last month, the regional Scottish government set out its thinking on Brexit, including Sturgeon’s preferred option of an independent Scotland in the EU.

"I’ve been willing, and am willing, to put aside my preferred option of independence in the EU to see if we can explore a consensus and compromise option," Sturgeon said on BBC radio.

But she said any suspension of the drive towards Scottish independence would be temporary. "I’m never going to stop arguing for independence. I think Scotland will become independent, and I think that’s the direction of travel."

British Prime Minister Theresa May intends to launch negotiations on leaving the EU by the end of March. Some members of her Conservative Party government suggest Britain could pay for access to the single market. But a former UK official at European Commission warned on Friday that Britain could not buy access to the single market after its EU exit.

Reuters

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