Brexit may lead to Scottish independence, Nicola Sturgeon tells Dublin audience
NICOLA Sturgeon has declared Brexit could lead to Scottish independence.
The First Minister warned London that if it tries to drive Scotland off a "hard Brexit cliff edge" then Scots would have the right to "choose other alternatives".
"I have always believed Scotland will become an independent country and I think it will become an independent country well within my lifetime - and this may be the moment for that," she said.
The First Minister was speaking at Trinity College Dublin, where she was awarded an honorary patronage from the university's Philosophical Society.
She also said a proposal to allow Britons to remain EU citizens after Brexit for a fee should not be ruled out.
The suggestion of individual EU membership for the 48% who voted Remain merits discussion, she said.
"We should be open-minded about solutions that can help, whether it is Scotland or individuals, who want to retain their citizenship, their relationship with the EU," Ms Sturgeon added.
The "associate citizenship" idea gained has gained the backing of Guy Verhofstadt, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator.
The former Belgian prime minister, who held talks with Brexit Secretary David Davis last week, said he liked the idea "that people who are European citizens and saying they want to keep it, have the possibility of doing so".
Ms Sturgeon said she was willing to consider the possibility as one of a number of "proposed solutions".
"We shouldn't be ruling out anything just now," she said.
"People say to me - as I'm sure they are saying to (Mr Verhofstadt) about that particular proposal - that is impossible, that could never work.
"Well, how do we know that?
"We are going into a period that is completely uncharted, in terms of what happens now."
She added: "We are going to have to be imaginative, innovative and creative in the period ahead, if we are going to come out of this Brexit scenario in good shape, without damaging the things that we value in the UK.
"So let us be open-minded about some of the suggestions."
Ms Sturgeon reiterated her belief that a second Scottish independence referendum is highly likely after Britain voted to leave the EU earlier this year.
But she added other options for Scotland to at least remain within the European single market are being explored.
Ms Sturgeon is also meeting business and political leaders in Dublin during her two-day visit as she looks to strengthen links between Scotland and Ireland after the Brexit vote.
She will address the Irish Parliament on Tuesday.
Ms Sturgeon will address 130 chief executives on Tuesday, and is expected to say that UK membership of the single market is good for all the British Isles and the Irish Government has a strong ally in Scotland
She will stress that her government is working hard to make Scotland the best place in the UK to do business and to increase trade and co-operation with the rest of the world.
She is expected to say: "The relationship between Scotland and Ireland is better now than it has ever been. The ties between our governments, businesses, cultural organisations, universities and colleges and our people are closer and stronger than ever.
"A hard Brexit is likely to be the most damaging option for trade, jobs and our universities sector. We share the frustrations of the Irish business community about the lack of information we have, and the possibility of a hard Brexit."