NICOLA Sturgeon has told an audience in London the case for independence has strengthened since the Brexit vote as she made an appeal for cross-party support to remain in the single market and customs union.

The First Minister underlined Scotland's "historic connections with Europe" and said she would do everything to ensure the country continues to value its connections to the mainland continent and its people in the coming years.

"The basic ideal behind the EU appeal to us – we like the idea of independent nations co-operating closely for the common good," she said.

READ: Nicola Sturgeon's full speech from London on Scotland's place in Europe

"And, as we watch the Brexit negotiations unfold, the case for Scotland becoming one of those independent nations becomes ever stronger."

She said Scotland's European sense of identity had increased in recent years and been enriched through collaborative work, and by the presence of EU citizens in Scotland.

"In the last 20 years, Scotland – with the support of all political parties at Holyrood – has expanded its presence in Brussels," she said.

"We have collaborated with partners on European projects from renewable energy to healthy ageing.

"Our businesses and our universities have enjoyed ever greater benefits from our international ties. And Scottish society has been enriched by the presence of more than 230,000 EU citizens from outside the UK.

She continued: "We have seen at first hand the benefits that we gain from working with allies from across the continent. And so we are determined to work to enhance rather than diminish our ties with the EU.

"In the last two years alone, the Scottish Government has established new offices in Berlin, Dublin and Paris. Here in London as well.

"Our enterprise agency has doubled its representation in Europe. And even if the UK Government opts for a hard Brexit, Scotland will do everything we can to ensure that our policies remain consistent with European priorities and values."

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Sturgeon appealed to the UK Government to support the compromise position of remaining in the single market and customs union, and warned against a "false choice" between any deal Theresa May brought back from Brussels and a no deal.

She believed such a position – more than others – could get majority support in the Commons.

However, she added previous appeals for compromise had been rejected by the Prime Minister.

And she warned May that people north of the Border would remember "for a long time" the way the EU had backed the interest of the Irish Republic in contrast to the lack of support given by the UK Government to Scotland or the other devolved nations.

"It is fair to say that our proposals have not so far had the impact on the UK Government we would have wanted," she said. 

"The UK, throughout these negotiations, has shown little inclination to pay serious heed to Scotland – or, for that matter to Wales, London, or the different regions of England," she said.

"Indeed, one of the lessons from our experience of the last two years, which I suspect has not been lost on the Scottish people and which will be remembered in Scotland for a long time to come, is the stark contrast between the EU’s treatment of independent nations, and the UK’s treatment of devolved nations.

She added: "The European Union has supported Ireland and shown it nothing but solidarity as it confronts the challenges of Brexit; by contrast, the UK has dismissed and ignored Scotland’s concerns.

"Looking at the UK and the EU, it is fair to say that only one has looked like a partnership of equals. And over the past two years that has not been the UK."

She said her compromise approach would avoid "the worst economic harms of a hard Brexit, and maintain the key benefits of free trade and other ties that unite countries across Europe".

"If we can help to deliver that commonsense Brexit, we believe it will be the best – or perhaps the least bad outcome – not just for Scotland, but for the UK, and indeed the whole of Europe.

"My hope is that such an outcome might still be in reach. The Scottish Government will do everything we can to help to achieve it."

And she said MPs who help May get a "cobbled-together" Brexit deal through Parliament would be guilty of a "dereliction of duty".

She accused the UK Government of "threatening us with fire, to make us choose the frying pan", and argued that any deal that is presented to the Commons was likely to be deliberately vague about the future relationship and damaging to the UK's interests.

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Sturgeon told the audience at the Royal Society of Arts that voting down the Prime Minister's proposal would allow a deal keeping the UK in the customs union and single market.

Voting against "a bad or blindfold Brexit" was not a vote for no-deal, she argued, but "the only chance the House of Commons will have to reset these negotiations and think again before it is too late".

She said: "As the crucial vote looms closer, it is also time for individual members of the House of Commons to consider what compromises they see as justified – and which are not – if they are to serve their constituents, and the wider public interest.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon challenges Ruth Davidson and David Mundell over resignation threats

"If they do that, I believe that a commonsense outcome could yet be found."

She added: "For MPs to support a bad or blindfold Brexit – a cobbled-together withdrawal agreement and a vague statement about our future relationship – would, in my view, be a dereliction of duty."

In the June 2016 referendum, Scotland voted by 62% to 38% in favour of remaining in the EU.

As part of her speech, the First Minister presented a new paper from the Scottish Government – Scotland's Place in Europe: Our Way Forward.

It noted that the "core" of the proposal was the same as it set out in December 2016.

Writing in her foreword to the paper, Sturgeon said: "The Scottish Government, in line with the overwhelming vote for Remain in Scotland, supports continued EU Membership. Remaining in the EU continues to be our strong preference.

"Nevertheless in December 2016 we set out a compromise plan to keep Scotland and the UK in the European single market and customs union to limit the damage of Brexit as much as possible.

"It is therefore simply incorrect for the Prime Minister to say that there is no alternative to Chequers.

"In fact, the UK Government's position is increasingly absurd – insisting on pursuing proposals they have been told will not work while rejecting a plan that will."

She adds: "With crucial decisions coming up over the next few weeks and months at EU level – and in the House of Commons, where the UK Government must seek the approval of the UK Parliament – it is vital to break the deadlock.

"For the Prime Minister and the UK Government it is time to face reality. For MPs at Westminster it is time to come together in a commonsense coalition to minimise the Brexit damage."

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) said: "We will have an ambitious course outside of the EU that enhances our prosperity and security and that genuinely works for everyone across the UK.

"We have put forward a precise and credible plan for our future relationship with the EU and look forward to continuing to engage with the EU Commission on our proposals."

Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens’ Europe spokesperson, added: “While any effort to preserve Scotland’s relationship with Europe is admirable, it’s clear the UK government never has and never will listen to the wishes of voters in Scotland who voted overwhelmingly to remain.

"As long as Scotland is stuck with Westminster, our views and our best interests will continue to be ignored. The only long term solution, which doesn’t kick the can further down the road, is independence.”