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Scotland to expand its presence in Europe in wake of Brexit

(Xinhua)    10:30, October 16, 2016

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced Saturday plans to open an investment hub in Germany's capital city of Berlin as part of a four-point plan to show the world that Scotland is open for business.

The Scottish first minister outlined her plans in a closing keynote speech to the annual SNP conference in Glasgow.

Her 45-minute speech, which earned a standing ovation from a packed conference hall, made it clear that a self-rule Scotland, separate from the United Kingdom, remained her goal.

"Make no mistake, the threat to our economy is not just the prospect of losing our place in the single market, disastrous though that would be. It is also the deeply damaging, and utterly shameful, message that the Tories' rhetoric about foreign workers is sending to the world."

"More than ever we need to tell our European friends that Scotland is open for business," she said.

In a reference to two of the ministers chosen by Prime Minister Theresa May to spearhead Britain's exit from Brussels, Sturgeon said: "We cannot trust the likes of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to do that for us."

She then announced her four-point plan to boost trade and exports, by taking Scotland's message "directly and in our own voice" to the very heart of Europe.

"We will establish a new Board of Trade in the Scottish government. Secondly, we will set up a new trade envoy scheme, asking prominent Scots to help us boost our export effort," said Sturgeon.

"Thirdly, we will establish permanent trade representation in Berlin, adding to our Investment hubs in Dublin, London and Brussels. And, fourthly, we will more than double the number of Scottish Development International staff working across Europe," added Sturgeon.

In another attack of May's London-based government, Sturgeon said: "The difference between the Scottish and Westminster governments is this. They are retreating to the fringes of Europe: we intend to stay at its very heart, where Scotland belongs."

Sturgeon outlined more spending on the National Health Service in Scotland, a new phase in this childcare revolution with the first ever review of its kind into the way children in care are looked after.

She also said hundreds more business would soon be paying workers a living wage, and more smaller firms would soon be exempt from paying any business rates.

Describing the SNP as the only effective opposition in the Westminster parliament, Sturgeon was critical of both the main opposition Labour Party as well as the ruling Conservatives.

Saying she first joined the SNP 30 years ago, Sturgeon said in all of those years she never doubted Scotland will one day become an "independent country", adding: "I believe it today more strongly than ever".

"I've always known that it will happen only when a majority of our fellow citizens believe that becoming independent is the best way to build a better future, together," said Sturgeon.

"And make no mistake, it is the opponents of independence, those on the right of the Tory party, intent on a hard Brexit, who have caused the insecurity and uncertainty. Independence would bring its own challenges, but with independence, the solutions will lie in our own hands."

She concluded her speech with a rallying call: "The time is coming to put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands. Let's get on with building the country we know Scotland can be."

Earlier this week at the start of the conference, Sturgeon announced that legislation would be presented to the Scottish Parliament next week to pave the way for a second referendum on a split from London.

Two years ago Scottish people voted to stay as part of the UK, but on May 23, by more than 60 percent they voted to stay as part of the EU.

Sturgeon wants Scotland to have access to the EU's single market, even if Britain quits Europe. But the message from London has been that as the majority of people of Britain voted to leave the EU, all parts of the UK would sever ties with Brussels.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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