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Tories should have ‘paused’ Brexit the same way I ‘paused’ independence vote, claims Nicola Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Fuel shortages and empty supermarket shelves could have been prevented had the Conservative government “paused Brexit” the way Nicola Sturgeon “paused” a second independence referendum, the First Minister has claimed.

Ms Sturgeon warned Christmas could be disrupted because of HGV driver shortages and the general labour market woes brought about by Brexit.

If Brexit had been stopped during the peak of the Covid pandemic, she said, then the “anxiety and nervousness” felt by consumers would be lessened and the current labour shortage prevented.

The Scottish Conservatives criticised the first minister’s comments and claimed she and her party had “never once” paused their campaign for another “divisive” referendum.

Ms Sturgeon was speaking at an event to mark the announcement of 2,000 jobs for Social Security Scotland, the “bulk of which” will be in Dundee, where she admitted taking responsibility of benefits had taken longer than “wanted”.

Pause

When asked if the fuel shortages experienced over the weekend should be described as a crisis, Ms Sturgeon said: “This has not been caused by a fundamental shortage of fuel, it is being caused by the disruption to the labour market of Brexit, which has made it more difficult to get fuel to petrol stations and has created the anxiety and nervousness on the part of consumers.

“And that is only one problem, people are seeing supermarket shelves short of certain products, again because it is really difficult to get the drivers to take these products to market.

“We have fruit and vegetables unpicked because the labour isn’t there.

“We are now paying the price, the UK as a whole, of a UK Government that recklessly drove through Brexit in the face of a global pandemic.

“These problems are going to continue. Their origin is Brexit and the UK Government has a big responsibility in sorting them out before things get worse over this winter period.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“The last thing anyone needs right now, given we are still dealing with Covid, is all of this and the UK Government should have known that.

“They should have, as I did with planning for an independence referendum, put have put Brexit on pause and the fact they haven’t done that, I think reflects really badly on them and unfortunately it’s people across the country that are paying the price.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “It is rich of Nicola Sturgeon to be talking about pausing a constitutional issue. She’s never once stopped trying to pursue her case for another divisive referendum.”

Hope for benefits pace increase

Of the announcement on jobs for Social Security Scotland, Scottish Labour’s Social Security spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “I hope this extra capacity signals a change of pace on social security in Scotland. I am pleased that the Government has listened to Scottish Labour’s calls to increase the capacity of Social Security Scotland.

“For some time Ministers have been blaming capacity for their lack of action. I hope this extra capacity means they’ll pick up the pace on the full roll out of the Scottish Child Payment, and on carers and disabled people’s benefits, that have been left in the hands of the DWP and at the mercy of the callous Tory government for far too long already.

Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP

“Now we must see that capacity put straight into action and reverse the significant delays to implementation of the Scottish Government’s social security powers.

“People need a dignified, fair and respectful social security system, and I am committed to holding the government to account until they deliver one.”

Asked about the Scottish Government’s delay in accepting the developed powers to deliver certain benefits, Ms Sturgeon stressed it is now delivering 11 benefits but acknowledged it had “taken longer than we have wanted it to take”.

She added: “In terms of independence, in 2014 we didn’t have Social Security Scotland.

“So the next time Scotland comes to voting on independence, we have infrastructure that we didn’t have back then – so actually we are already much further along the road to independence than we were in 2014.”

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