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Nicola Sturgeon is set to ditch her commitment to full EU membership
The Scottish First Minister is reportedly close to watering down her promise Scotland could stay in the EU if it leaves the UK at a second independence referendum.
Instead, if Ms Sturgeon follows through with her threat of a second vote on Scottish independence, senior SNP figures are believed to want the party to campaign on the basis of an independent Scotland striking a Norway-style deal with the EU.
By contrast, during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the ‘Yes’ campaign insisted Scotland would remain a full member of the Brussels-based bloc if voters chose to quit the UK.
The First Minister has fiercely campaigned against Brexit and Scotland leaving the EU following last year’s EU referendum result.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed the party’s new position would have “nowt to do with principles” but represented the SNP’s obsession with independence over all other issues.
Ukip's leader in Scotland, David Coburn MEP, attacked Ms Sturgeon's "absolute obsession, absolute fetish with independence".
Ms Sturgeon has demanded Scotland be able to copy the Norway-style model following last summer’s Brexit vote as a “compromise” with Theresa May, despite the Prime Minister’s vow to take the UK out of the Single Market and end free movement.
Norway is not a full member of the EU but is part of the bloc’s Single Market, while also being signed up to Brussels’ free movement principle and within the borderless Schengen Area.
In the Scottish Government’s own Brexit plan, the First Minister claimed the “differentiated” Brexit arrangement for Scotland would “respect the voice and protect the interests of Scotland” after 62 per cent of Scots voted to Remain in the EU on June 23.
It had previously been thought the SNP’s bid for a Norway-style deal, through membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), would only apply if Scotland remained in the UK.
But, according to The Times, the party may now adopt it as a permanent policy for an independent Scotland during a second referendum campaign, rather than full EU membership.
A source told the newspaper: “We might well become a full member of the EU at a later date but this would allow us to retain access to both the UK and European markets without a break, which is what we want.
They added: “We are aware that there are people who voted ‘yes’ to leave the UK and ‘leave’ to exit the EU.
“There are also people who voted ‘no’ in 2014 and are now hugely disappointed to be leaving the EU. This should appeal to all of them.”
This is just an absolute obsession, absolute fetish with independence at any cost
Ukip's David Coburn
In response to the report, Ms Davidson posted on Twitter: “Nowt to do with principles, everything to do with future campaigning position. Independence transcends all.”
Mr Coburn told Express.co.uk the First Minister "will lose an independence referendum".
He said: "It'll be even more of a defeat that it was last time. People are fed-up to the back teeth, everybody I talk to – including people who voted for independence – tell me it's so appalling for business this in-out, hokey-cokey politics. It's damaging to Scottish business.
"This hokey-cokey politics of hers, in-out, in-out, shake it all about, is hardly going to inspire confidence for people to invest in Scotland and build businesses and encourage Scots to stay in Scotland and give them jobs.
"This is just an absolute obsession, absolute fetish with independence at any cost, no matter what it means."
Nicola Sturgeon's top tweets
Sun, July 24, 2016
With over 391 thousand followers on Twitter, First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is a prolific tweeter, here are her best quotes.
1 of 9
Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland
Spain rejected Ms Sturgeon’s demand for a so-called ‘soft’ Brexit along the lines of Norway’s EU relationship within a day of the First Minister announcing a plan.
An independent Scotland bidding to join the EEA could also face similar opposition due to Madrid’s fears it could encourage the independence movement in Catalonia.
Ms Sturgeon is meeting Mrs May today along with the leaders of Wales and Northern Ireland in order to discuss the UK Government’s Brexit plans.
The SNP did not provide a comment.