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Europe

'Scotland must have ability to choose better future': Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said it's "highly likely" that Scotland will secede from the United Kingdom in the near future, adding that preparations for a second independence referendum are already underway.

"I have never doubted that Scotland will one day become an independent country and I believe it today more strongly than I ever have before," First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told members of her pro-independence Scottish National Party on Sunday.

She further pledged to "explore all options" to prevent Scotland being taken out of the European Union against its will following the UK's decision to exit the bloc following this year's referendum in which a majority of Scots cast ballots to remain.

The ruling SNP says it will present a bill for another referendum to the Scottish Parliament next week. It would be pursued if all other options to keep Scotland in the EU should fail.

 A referendum in 2014 over Scottish independence was rejected, but the SNP may be banking on fallout over the Brexit decision for a renewed push to sway Scottish voters to seek a future within the EU even if it means breaking up the United Kingdom.

"We will propose new powers to help keep Scotland in the single market even if the UK leaves," Sturgeon said on Sunday, the final day of the SNP conference in Glasgow.

 "But if the Tory government rejects these efforts, if it insists on taking Scotland down a path that hurts our economy, costs jobs, lowers our living standards and damages our reputation as an open, welcoming, diverse country, then be in no doubt ... Scotland must have the ability to choose a better future, and I will make sure that Scotland gets that chance."

Sturgeon acknowledged, however, that independence would "bring its own challenges."

Scottish independence movement's ripple effect

Scotland would still need to convince EU member states who are wrestling with their own separatist movements to accept a unique Brexit solution for Scotland, or ultimately admit Scotland as a new member state if it votes for independence.

In France, Corsican separatist Francois Alfonsi, president of a coalition of regional groups called the European Free Alliance (EFA), told a meeting on the sidelines of the conference that attitudes towards Scottish independence are shifting in Europe.

"It is historic, this vote for Brexit, because it is creating conditions very new for the independence of Scotland," Alfonsi said. "EFA has to be unconditional supporters of the SNP, but there are other supporters now."

Watch video 04:50

Will Scotland break away from Britain?

jar/kl (AFP, Reuters)

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