Unionists have a “vested interest” in showing the United Kingdom can secure Scotland’s ties with the European Union, the First Minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon made the remark at a press conference following an extraordinary meeting of the British-Irish Council which was called to discuss last month’s referendum on membership of the European Union.
A majority of voters across the UK voted to leave the organisation but a majority of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union.
The First Minister said there was no question she would seek to “protect” Scotland’s interests.
She said: “For Scotland right now it is not a question of if we are seeking to protect our interests, the question is ‘how can we do that?’
“Can we find a way of doing that within a UK context? Those who support the continuation of the UK strike me as having a vested interest in trying to secure that.
“Or do we have to look at other options to secure our interests? Securing our interests is an absolute priority and being very involved in a meaningful way – not in a consultative way- in what happens from here on in is a central part of that”.
Following the referendum result, Sturgeon said a second independence referendum was “highly likely” and that the Scottish Government would prepare legislation to hold such a poll if it judged independence was the only way to maintain Scotland’s place within the organisation.
Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was also at the summit, said he does not want to see a post-Brexit “European border” on the island of Ireland and warned that “there will not be a hard border between Dundalk and Derry”.
On Friday, Kenny said Brexit discussions should “take into account” the possibility of a ‘border poll’ – a referendum on Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and joining the Republic of Ireland.
The Taoiseach said: “The discussion and negotiations that take place over the next period should take into account the possibility, however far out it might be, that the clause in the Good Friday Agreement might be triggered.
“In that [agreement] if there is a clear evidence of a majority of people wishing to leave the United Kingdom and join the Republic, that should be catered for in the discussions.
“Because if that possibility were to happen, you would have Northern Ireland wishing to leave the United Kingdom, not being a member of the European Union, and joining the Republic, which will be a member of the EU.”
The British-Irish Council will meet again in November.