Scotland politics

Sturgeon calls for unity against far-right politics

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright European Greens
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon said the rise of far-right politics across Europe was a "deep and profound concern"

Nicola Sturgeon has called for unity against far-right politics in a speech at the European Greens conference.

The first minister told the summit in Glasgow that supporters of progressive values needed to "stand up and be counted" to fight against xenophobia.

The event brings together local Green parties from across the continent.

Elsewhere at the conference, Scottish Greens co-convenor Maggie Chapman said her party would back Ms Sturgeon if she presses for an independence referendum.

The Scottish Greens support the SNP in maintaining a second independence vote as an option over the Brexit negotiations, while Holyrood's other parties - the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems - are opposed.

Ms Sturgeon held talks with UK Chancellor Philip Hammond at Holyrood on Thursday, with the Scottish government aiming to secure a beneficial deal when the UK leaves the EU.

'Profound concern'

She told the conference that Scotland "may lie at the edge of Europe, but it has always been - and wants to remain - at its heart".

She said: "As Europe grapples with the defining issues of our age - the largest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War, the growth in inequality and the impact of climate change - now more than ever independent nations across Europe must work together.

"Support for far-right politicians is on the increase across Europe. That should be of deep and profound concern to us wherever we live.

"These are not simply cases of a candidate whom we don't like winning an election. Their politics are totally hostile to the notion of equality for all. Rather than tackling the key challenges we all face - they only seek to exploit them. I know many of you, like us, feel real anxiety about this.

"I don't pretend to have all of the answers - none of us do. But I know this. We must not sit back and let this happen. Doing nothing is not an option.

"Now is the time for all of us who believe in progressive values to get out and fight for them like never before. Now is the time to stand up and be counted."

Image copyright Scottish Green Party
Image caption Maggie Chapman said the Scottish Greens would not "stand by"

Earlier, Ms Chapman told conference delegates that the Scottish Greens would not "stand by" and let Scotland be "dragged" out of the EU.

She said: "We voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU yet we face being dragged out against our will by an uncaring Conservative government that we did not elect.

"We will support moves by the Scottish government to prepare legislation for another independence referendum, if this proves necessary.

"However, we are still willing to consider, along with others in the UK and beyond, whether other options short of independence exist that respect the mandate for Scotland to remain in the European Union."

Other opposition leaders have criticised Ms Sturgeon over her talk of independence.

During the previous day's session of questions to the first minister, Labour's Kezia Dugdale said "the NHS is stuck in the waiting room while the first minister plots a second referendum".

With the SNP's "listening exercise" on independence drawing to a close earlier in the week, a spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said it was time for Ms Sturgeon to "finally pay heed to what Scotland is saying - 'no' to a second referendum and 'no' to more division, more uncertainty and more rancour".

The Chancellor Philip Hammons has urged Scottish parties to stop "clutching at straws" and focus on getting the best possible deal out of Brexit.

He said: "I look forward to us moving on from this slightly backward looking, clutching at straws, trying to resist the will of the people to embracing it, recognising it's going to happen and committing to work together to make sure it's done in a way that is most supportive of the UK economy and the Scottish economy."

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