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Question Time



Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Nicola Sturgeon Q & A
SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon MSP
We wanted your questions for Nicola Sturgeon MSP, the Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party.

Nicola Sturgeon answered a selection of your e-mails. Thank you for all your questions.

Ms Sturgeon writes:

Question from Patricia Vickers, Glasgow: If Scotland becomes independent, we will miss out on a lot of things, such as the advantages of the 2012 Olympics, wouldn't it be better if we just became a territory of the UK, like Northern Ireland?

Nicola Sturgeon: The SNP supported the London Olympic bid, although is debatable whether Scotland will gain any advantage.

In fact, grassroots sport in Scotland stands to lose millions of pounds in lottery funding because the money will be diverted to support the London Olympic Games. Nevertheless, the SNP would still like to see the enthusiastic participation of Scottish athletes competing under a Scottish flag.

Next year an SNP government will convene a meeting of Scotland's sports stakeholders, within our first 100 days, to discuss and agree a joint approach to lead to a Scottish application for membership of the IOC and a Scottish Olympic team representing our nation in 2012.

UK overseas territories can compete in the Olympics, so there is no barrier to Scotland having a Scottish Olympic team under present constitutional arrangements.

It's time for Scots athletes to compete as part of a Scottish Olympic team. The opposition is from politicians like Blair and Brown who put the UK interest first and the Scottish interest a poor second.

Question from James Fish, Gourock: Regarding your answer about Trident perhaps you could explain how giving up nuclear weapons unilaterally would benefit this country, especially with more and more unstable governments getting their hands on these weapons? We would have nothing to counter any threat made by such nations.

Nicola Sturgeon: The argument that the possession of nuclear weapons is necessary to counter threats made by unstable governments is actually an argument for nuclear proliferation. The SNP does not accept that argument and neither do the majority of the Scottish people.

Rather than wasting millions on a new generation of nuclear weapons we will ensure that Scotland's armed services are properly remunerated, equipped and trained.

Currently Scottish soldiers are over-stretched and under-resourced. We will reverse this. We will stop the downsizing of strategic military facilities and enhance counter terrorism provision so that we can properly protect Scotland's land, sea and air space.

Question from Alan Gordon, Edinburgh: I am thinking of voting SNP at the next election being fed-up with the Labour and Conservative parties however I am a bit concerned about your naivety.

Your stance on nuclear weapons while fine in a perfect world does not make much sense at the moment. To suggest that our getting rid of these weapons (as horrible as they are) will encourage other countries to give up their own weapons I think is simplistic in the extreme.

I cannot imagine the North Korean or Iranian leadership thinking, oh well Britain has no nuclear weapons no need for us to have any, as a credible way to combat this situation. Do you think you will have to become more realistic to have any chance of gaining power and having a sensible voice in the wider world?

Nicola Sturgeon: We are not arguing for Britain to give up nuclear weapons. We are arguing for Scotland to give up nuclear weapons. If the remainder of the UK chooses to retain nuclear weapons that is their decision but it would make no sense for a country of Scotland's size to maintain a nuclear arsenal.

The argument that Scotland would need to possess nuclear weapons to defend herself is actually an argument for nuclear proliferation. The SNP does not accept that argument and neither do the majority of the Scottish people.

Question from Shaun Harvey, Bangor: If Independence was achieved in Scotland what steps would need to be taken to achieve EU status and what would happen to the currency in the short term?

Nicola Sturgeon: An independent Scotland would automatically inherit EU membership on the same terms as the remainder of the UK. The SNP supports Scotland joining the Euro, subject to the consent of the Scottish people being given in a referendum.

Question from Stewart McKenna, Glasgow: Say your party gets into power in Scotland, then the people vote for Scottish independence, what happens to your party after that? Isn't it redundant?

Nicola Sturgeon: Once independence has been achieved, elections to the independent Scottish parliament will be held to establish a new Scottish government. The SNP will contest those elections.

Question from Kieran Chambers, Clydebank: If I vote your party into power next May will you promise to immediately stop all PPP funding for schools in Scotland?

Nicola Sturgeon: Yes. PFI is proving to be Labour's biggest public policy disaster with our hospitals and schools lumbered with credit card levels of interest payments, way above the rate we could and should be paying. Over the lifetime of current PFI projects, Labour's PFI disaster will leave Scotland paying 5 billion more than it needed to.

The SNP will sort out Labour's mess. With a Scottish Futures Trust, using bond issue, there is the potential within current planned PFI schemes to find 116 million in annual savings.

In government the SNP will act to end the crippling costs of PFI borrowing.

Our proposal for a Scottish Futures Trust will see greater use of public bond issues so that our public services can have access to lower cost borrowing. Our public assets can be held in trust for the nation all without the unnecessary private profit that is part and parcel of PFI.

Question from Tim Olf, Livingston: What would be the immigration policy when Scotland becomes independent?

Nicola Sturgeon: The SNP will introduce a Scottish Green Card, encourage migrants with the skills we need to apply for it and fund an ambitious international campaign targeted at the Scottish expatriate community and Diaspora.

Too many of our brightest people have had to leave Scotland to succeed. We will give them a reason to come back and by strengthening our economy we will also give them a reason to stay.

We also believe that we should draw from the well of overseas talent already here. Many asylum seekers living in Scotland are highly educated and skilled individuals, yet they are prevented from working by UK legislation.

We believe they should be given the opportunity to work while awaiting decisions on their right to stay in Scotland. This would help our economy; it would help asylum seekers themselves who desperately want to be self-sufficient; and it would help foster better community relations.

Question from John, Glasgow: Do you think we would be morally bankrupt if we turned our back on Iraq now, allowing a full scale civil war and possibly tens of millions of deaths.

I'm afraid if we pull out now, two years down the line, the people advocating pulling out, might just end up with much bloodier hands and maybe even a third world war. What would you do if we pulled out our troops and mass genocide begins? Would you resign along with all the others who advocated leaving Iraq? I would expect you to for sure

Nicola Sturgeon: The SNP opposed the invasion of Iraq which was, and remains, illegal under international law. Once our troops were committed however we gave them our full support.

The question now is whether the presence of UK troops is causing more harm than good.

The Head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, for example, has said that troops should be withdrawn sooner rather than later because their presence exacerbates the security problems in Iraq, as well as jeopardising British security and interests around the world. That is an opinion which should be taken seriously by all concerned.

The SNP has long advocated the withdrawal of coalition troops, to be replaced with a force which is under UN command. That would still be our preferred option.

Question from John Evans, Brechin: What is your position on the introduction of private medicine into the clinical services in the NHS in Scotland?

Nicola Sturgeon:The SNP does not support the introduction of private medicine into the clinical services in the NHS in Scotland.

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