Independent Scotland could take in more refugees, says minister

Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater said the Scottish Government is still working towards having a vote on the future of the UK in 2023

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Independence would allow Scotland to take in more refugees, a government minister said, as she declared it is “time to have a conversation about what kind of country we want to be”.

Scottish Green co-leader and circular economy minister Lorna Slater made the comments as the UK continues to face criticism for its efforts to help refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Ms Slater, who used her speech to her party’s conference at the weekend to insist that a “fairer, greener and independent Scotland” could offer “safety and solidarity to refugees”, confirmed on Sunday that the Scottish Government is still working towards having a vote on the future of the UK in 2023.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – who brought the Greens into her government six months ago as part of a co-operation agreement – has insisted it is still her aim to hold such a ballot before the end of next year, despite the UK Government’s opposition.

Ms Slater said: “We are working towards having an independence referendum next year.”

She noted this was part of the Bute House Agreement – the deal signed between the SNP and Greens which brought the latter party into government for the first time anywhere in the UK.

Ms Slater said: “It’s time to have a conversation about what kind of country we want to be.

“I think that is an independent country, a proud member of the EU, that has the powers to do things like upgrade our own electricity grid, install our own offshore cables, there’s so much we can’t do.

“Our hands are tied by Westminster, and we could do much more as an independent country, we could take in more refugees,” said Ms Slater on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show.

Her comments came after fellow Green co-leader Patrick Harvie insisted that having another Scottish independence referendum by the end of 2023 is “entirely feasible”.

Mr Harvie, the minister for zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights, compared the situation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and said the UK should not “abandon” its democratic principles by blocking a vote on the Union.

Saying the world is “so furious and anxious about the profound threat to democracy that’s taking place in Europe at the moment”, Mr Harvie insisted: “This is not a time to abandon those democratic principles.

“This is not a time to say ‘We dare not ask the people of Scotland what choice they would make about their own future’.

“This is actually a time to redouble our commitment to democracy and to say ‘Power lies with the people’.”

However, Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said: “It’s disgraceful that, despite our economic recovery remaining fragile, and a war in Ukraine, the nationalists still want to push ahead with trying to divide us.”

He added: “The last thing we need is the extremist, anti-growth Greens obsessing over independence, especially when their economic arguments for breaking up the UK have never been weaker.

“It’s high time the SNP-Green Government stopped fantasising over separation and focused more on our recovery from the pandemic, as well as supporting the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.”