Whitehall is so consumed by Brexit almost everything else is being ignored, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.
The First Minister also said the situation was damaging the working relationship between London and the devolved administrations.
Speaking at an event in Brussels, the First Minister said “The Whitehall machine is consumed by Brexit almost to the exclusion of everything else.”
The SNP leader added: “That has knock-on implications for our relationships. It means that even on the non-Brexit issues it’s harder to get the attention of the civil servants who reuqire to get the attention of because their minds are elsewhere.”
The First Minister said it wasn’t an anti-Scottish government sentiment but “just a fact of life”.
On the issue of Brexit itself, Nicola Sturgeon said that “the moment of truth was now staring people in the face” and that the UK government would soon be faced with a choice.
She said: “My view is it’s better that this is sooner rather than later because the later it becomes, the more risk there is of a no deal scenario, and that is in nobody’s interest.
“People should understand that there is no preparedness for [no deal] in the UK […] the UK government is not preparing for that option.”
The SNP leader added: “The [UK] government’s position is unsustainable and I don’t think anybody should be giving up on the Single Market – Customs Union options.”
Nicola Sturgeon also touched on the so-called Power Grab by Westminster and warned it could be “really damaging” to Scotland if London was to impose policies without the consent of the Scottish parliament.
Asked if the Power Grab issue could be used as a springboard for another independence referendum, the First Minister said it was an important issue in its own right and pointed out both the Lib Dems and the Scottish Labour party, both opposed to independence, had voted with her own party on the issue.
She added: “It’s not a proxy for the independence debate, it’s important in its own right.”
Asked about independence in relation to Brexit, the First Minister said: “The first point to make about the independence case is that it’s much bigger than Brexit.
“In my view the independence case is strong regardless of Brexit.
“Brexit accentuates aspects of the independence case particularly the democratic aspect of that.”
Ms Sturgeon went on to remind the audience that Scotland was told during the independence referendum that a No vote would protect its membership of the EU.
She added: “We’re now finding ourselves facing the exit door of European Union when we didn’t vote for that […] that’s not democracy by any stretch of the imagination.”
Asked about a second independence referendum, the First Minister repeated her intention to make a decision this Autumn, once the Brexit situation becomes clearer.
She also commented on the possibility of Theresa May again refusing to grant a Section 30 order that would allow a legally binding referendum to be held, saying: “I stood on a manifesto in 2016 and was elected on a manifesto that had the prospect of second referendum on the context of Brexit, so the Scottish government has a mandate fot that.”
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