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Nicola Sturgeon says Brexit makes united Ireland 'more likely'

Nicola Sturgeon believes Brexit makes a united Ireland 'more likely'. Picture by Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA Wire

SCOTLAND'S First Minister Nicola Sturgeon believes Brexit increases the likelihood of a united Ireland.

The SNP leader is reticent on her preferred outcome for a border poll, simply saying “you can guess my general predilection around it”.

Ms Sturgeon has also warned that it would be “utterly undemocratically outrageous” if the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of a second independence referendum and Boris Johnson blocked it.

There is a growing expectation that a strong performance for the SNP in May's Scottish Parliament elections will further heighten calls for a second referendum on independence.

The British prime minister has consistently signalled his opposition to a second vote on independence arguing that it is too soon after the previous one in 2014.

During a visit to Scotland on Thursday, the Tory leader urged Scottish nationalists to stop “talking endlessly” about another referendum and concentrate instead on recovering from the Covid pandemic.

Mr Johnson said Nicola Sturgeon had promised that the 2014 referendum had been a “once-in-a-generation event” and she should be held to that.

Speaking to journalist Fintan O'Toole on Thursday evening, Ms Sturgeon said it would be a “utterly undemocratically outrageous” if the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of a second referendum but Mr Johnson vetoed it.

"What he is effectively saying is that if I and my party stand in this election on the manifesto commitment to offer the people of Scotland a choice and people vote for this and he says no, what does that say? Does the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland count for nothing?” she said.

The SNP leader stressed that she wanted to avoid a Catalonia-type situation where a referendum is called but is not legally recognised internationally.

If the British prime minister failed to grant a referendum, she said the SNP would challenge the decision in the courts and the courts would decide whether or not the Scottish parliament had the right to call a referendum.

“He would have to go to court to stand in the way of the democratic wishes of the Scottish people. All I would say to Boris is ‘good luck'," Ms Sturgeon said.

"It's not a position any self-respecting democrat should ever contemplate finding themselves in.”

She said the only argument that advocates of the union have had is that it was too soon to have another referendum.

“They can't argue the substantive case with any conviction or power,” she said.

When quizzed on her views about a united Ireland, the first minister responded: “It is entirely a matter for the people in Ireland ... I suspect Brexit probably makes that more likely than it was before.”

“I do have friends in Ireland. We sometimes joke about which will come first – an independent Scotland or a united Ireland.

"Who knows? Maybe neither will happen, but I firmly believe in an independent Scotland will happen. Maybe before too long we will see both.”

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