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Nicola Sturgeon: ‘Clinton win would shatter glass ceiling in terms of equality for women’

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

My week began with an early morning start to head down to London for talks with the prime minister and her colleagues on the implication of Brexit for Scotland.

I was joined in Number 10 by my counterparts from Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Downing Street Cabinet room has witnessed many historic decisions and high stakes political discussions down through the decades – and while Monday’s gathering of the Joint Ministerial Committee might may have been relatively low-key, no one should be in any doubt about the seriousness of the issues we discussed round the table.

Because Brexit is right up there with the most seismic political and economic events in modern times.

And those economic consequences in particular threaten to be very severe indeed.

Independent research from the respected Fraser of Allander Institute has shown that being taken out of Europe is likely to cost Scotland alone up to 80,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

And separate analysis has estimated that the cost to Scotland’s economy could be as much as £11billion every single year by 2030.

The warning signs are already there. Holidaymakers and business travellers setting off from Scotland in recent weeks will have noticed that the euros and dollars they are getting in return for their pounds are a lot less than they would have received before the EU vote in June, as sterling has plunged to a 168-year low.

And the most alarming thing of all is that all of this is happening before Brexit has properly begun.

In such circumstances, it is the duty of any government to have a plan in place.

Unfortunately, what myself and the other devolved leaders were met with in Downing Street on Monday was a wall of obfuscation.

Instead of clear answers there was dithering, in place of a clearly thought out plan there was indecision, and in the absence of policy there was fudge and waffle.

Brexit may mean Brexit but Mrs May couldn’t tell us what that platitude actually means.

The PM and her colleagues appear unable to answer even the most basic of questions, such as whether it is their intention for the UK to remain in Europe’s single market.

Unfortunately, all of the signals are that Theresa May is so in thrall to her party’s Ukip-aligned right-wing that she is bent on a “hard Brexit”, outside the single market and all of the benefits and economic security that brings.

The PM’s stance is all the more ironic given the secret tapes which emerged this week with recordings of her stark warnings to bankers before the vote about the huge risks of leaving Europe.

I have advocated an approach which might be described as “flexible Brexit”, and the Scottish Government will come up with a fully worked up proposal in the coming weeks which will suggest how Scotland can retain its place in Europe, including in the single market, as part of the UK negotiating process.

Others have made the case for the City of London and manufacturing plants such as Nissan’s in Sunderland remaining in the single market.

But if the UK Government is prepared to countenance such special deals for parts of the UK which voted decisively to leave Europe, how much stronger is the case of Scotland with our large vote to remain?

Because it is worth repeating the circumstances which Scotland now finds itself in.

Every single part of Scotland voted to remain in Europe, and nationwide there was a 24-point margin in favour of Remain.

And yet a Tory government with just one MP out of 59 north of the border is now threatening to drag us out of the EU against our will.

That is simply not acceptable. No Scottish Government or first minister worth their salt would simply roll over and let it happen. And I have no intention of doing so.

One of the policies the SNP government is bringing forward which gives me the greatest pleasure is the baby boxes we are introducing for all newborns across Scotland.

Like all the best ideas it is one that has been borrowed – this time from Finland, where the baby box has been a staple of national life for decades.

Since their introduction in that country the boxes have played their part in reducing infant mortality rates there to among the lowest anywhere in the world.

The boxes we are introducing will follow the same model – they will carry a clutch of essentials including nappies, clothes and toys, with a built-in mattress allowing the box to be used as a cot.

And this week the Scottish Government launched a competition to design the baby boxes that will soon start being sent to families across Scotland.

But just as important as the practical use of the boxes and their contents is the statement they send.

It is a message of inclusion and equality – one that says that every child born in Scotland, whatever their background and however poor or wealthy their family may be, starts life with exactly the same opportunity as everyone else.

There is a longstanding political convention that leaders do not comment on elections in other countries, and specifically that they do not say who they would wish to see win such contests.

But the US election that is now looming ever closer is one contest where I am prepared to break with tradition and say unequivocally what I think.

We are now just over 10 days away from one of the most important, and certainly one of the most bitter and divisive elections, in America’s modern history.

Whatever the result, Scotland will continue to have close ties of friendship and family with the US.

But I fervently hope that it will be Hillary Clinton who is sworn in as 45th president of the United States in January and who returns to the White House, this time not as first lady but as America’s first female leader.

It would not only be a result warmly welcomed around the globe but would also mark the shattering of the glass ceiling in terms of equality for women.

What’s more, I think she will be a great president.