NICOLA Sturgeon has said she would want to accelerate plans for a second independence referendum if a new prime minister opted for a harder Brexit.

Speaking ahead of Boris Johnson’s confirmation that he would stand for the Tory leadership, the First Minister reiterated her belief that Scotland should have the choice again before the end of this term of the Scottish Parliament.

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The First Minister will today unveil the SNP’s manifesto for the European elections when she will again underline voters should be able to choose whether Scotland should become an independent member of the EU.

“We want people to have the choice of a future for Scotland as an independent, European nation. Scotland’s for Europe – let’s make that loud and clear on May 23. Vote SNP,” she says in her opening remarks in the manifesto.

Legislation is to be introduced by the Scottish Government later this month setting out the rules of a second poll before the next Holyrood elections in May 2021.

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Appearing on ITV’s Peston programme, the First Minister was asked how the Brexit plans of Theresa May’s successor would impact on the case for another vote in Scotland.

She said: “I think it would certainly see a lot of people want to bring that choice for Scotland to be independent as close as possible.”

When asked if that is what she would want to see, Sturgeon replied: “Yes, I think I would.

“The point I was going to make is we’ve got to put the plans in place, we’ve got to pass the legislation we’ll introduce later this month.

“Just as 2014 was very different to the Brexit vote, I want the future choice for that decision to be one that people come to with the maximum amount of information.”

During the interview she highlighted a “possible compromise” in leaving the EU put forward by the Scottish Government in December 2016.

While describing the single market and customs union membership plan as “not the preferred option”, the First Minister added it was “better than a harder Brexit” if remaining was not an option.

She was also asked if Britain voted to leave again how it would impact Scotland’s “struggle to remain”.

She said: “At that point the struggle for the UK to remain may be over, but I’m not going to speculate beyond that.

“Certainly, the struggle for Scotland as an independent country to remain would be by no means over, but perhaps just stepping up a few gears.”

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She added: “I think now we are in the position of actually seeing remaining in the EU as a distinct possibility, that’s always been our preferred option and it’s the one we’re going to continue to argue for.”

Some 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, with people living in all 32 local authorities areas in favour of staying in.

In the SNP’s manifesto, the First Minister says next week’s ballot is “far and away the most important European election ever held in Scotland”.

She says: “This election is a chance for Scotland to make clear we reject the narrow, divisive and toxic agenda that has driven the Brexit debate. Scotland faces being dragged out of the European Union against our democratic will. All our efforts to be heard on Brexit have been met with a brick wall.”

And she continues: “The SNP wants Scotland to be part of an EU that safeguards workers’ rights, helps protect our environment and allows us to travel, work and live freely.

“EU markets – eight times bigger than the UK alone – are vital for our businesses, and for our agriculture and fishing sectors ... On May 23 we can send a message that we will not accept a Brexit process that silences Scotland’s voice, ignores our votes, treats our Parliament and Government with contempt and fails to represent the interests of people in Scotland.

“The EU has been at the centre of Europe’s drive for peace and prosperity for many decades. It is not perfect, but Scotland can play its part in making it better.”

She concludes: “We will ensure that Scotland’s future is not left to Westminster to decide.”

Brexit and the European elections also came up for discussion at yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions.

Keith Brown, the SNP’s deputy leader, asked the First Minister for views on any “backroom deal struck with the Labour Party” would leave Scotland outside the single market and cost £2300 a person”.

In response Sturgeon told MSPs: “The Tories’ actions and behaviour on Brexit are utterly shameful. In an electoral sense, they will probably get what they deserve in Scotland next week, at the European elections.

“People will quite rightly be expressing the degree of anger that they have at this whole Westminster Brexit fiasco.”

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