Nicola Sturgeon will seek ‘immediate discussions’ with the EU to ‘protect’ Scotland’s membership following UK referendum result.
The First Minister’s comments were made on the steps of Bute House on Saturday following an emergency meeting of the Scottish Government’s cabinet which discussed the implications of the referendum result.
Sturgeon said she will attempt to begin “immediate discussions” with the organisation’s institutions and member states.
She said: “Most of our discussion this morning centred on what we can do in the here and now and in the negotiations that lie ahead to protect Scotland’s relationship with the European Union and our place in the single market.
“Cabinet agreed that we will seek to enter into immediate discussions with the EU ‘s institutions and with other EU member states to explore all possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.
“In doing so we are determined to draw on as much support and advice from across Scotland as possible. I can confirm today that over the next few days I will establish an advisory panel comprising a range of experts who can advise me and the Scottish Government on a number of important matters – legal, financial and diplomatic.”
The SNP leader also restated that a second referendum on Scottish independence is “on the table” following the UK voting to leave the European Union and Scotland voting to Remain.
While the UK voted by a majority of 52% to leave the organisation, 62% of Scots voted to stay.
She said: “As I said yesterday, a second independence referendum is clearly an option that requires to be on the table and it is very much on the table.
“To ensure that option is a deliverable one in the required timetable steps will be taken now to ensure that the necessary legislation is in place. Cabinet this morning formally agreed that work.”
The SNP’s manifesto for the recent Holyrood election said it would view Scotland leaving the EU despite the country voting to stay as a “significant and material change” which would be reasonable grounds to trigger a second referendum.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson warned that the Scottish Government pursuing a second referendum would lead to instability.
Davidson also called on her party to be given a seat on the proposed advisory panel which it could fill with someone of its own choosing.
She said: “What we need now is Scotland’s two governments working together to ensure stability.
“The SNP agitating for an independence referendum rerun will do precisely the opposite.
“The priority should be stabilising the economy, reassuring Scotland’s businesses and protecting jobs, not promising a further layer of economic upheaval.”
Davidson continued: “The advisory group established by the First Minster should encompass the widest possible support. The Scottish Conservatives want to be constructive and would like to propose suitably qualified personnel to engage with the group.”
A spokesperson for the UK Government declined to comment on the news that the Scottish Government will draft legislation to hold an independence referendum.
A referendum on Scottish independence was last held in September, 2014 where 55% of Scots voted to stay part of the United Kingdom.