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Scotland to open Berlin office to boost trade after Brexit

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans to open an office in Berlin that would promote Scottish trade. She also vowed to fight to keep Scotland in the single market and away from a "hard Brexit."

Schottland - SNP Konferenz (picture-alliance/empics/J. Barlow)

Sturgeon said inclusion was the priority, but independence could come later

First Minister Sturgeon on Saturday announced a four-point plan to protect Scotland's economy in the wake of June's vote for Britain to leave the European Union.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said the devolved government in Edinburgh would set up a new board of trade, and a new trade envoy scheme and a new Scottish enterprise agency.  She also said the government would establish a new office in Berlin to promote trade links with Scotland.

Some Conservative ministers in London's Westminster parliament have suggested a "hard Brexit," which could see the UK leave the EU's single market in return for greater border control. Speaking at a party conference in Glasgow, Sturgeon said Scotland would have to redouble efforts to make its economy attractive internationally.

"The difference between the Scottish and a Westminster government is this. They are retreating to the very fringes of Europe, we're staying at its very heart, where Scotland belongs," Sturgeon told delegates.

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The first minister's efforts at forging a foreign policy for Scotland come after the disclosure earlier this month that she was forced to meet a junior German minister in a Berlin restaurant because he deemed it to be too diplomatically sensitive.

Single market vision

Sturgeon said her party would seek to "save the UK as a whole from the fate of a hard Brexit." However, she added that the SNP would propose new powers to keep Scotland in the single market, even if the UK left.

"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 slammed British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party as a party of exclusion because of its policies on refugees, and clampdowns on benefits for the disabled and unemployed.

The first minister also said she believed Scotland would become independent in her lifetime, but admitted that many still needed to be persuaded of the benefits. She opened the conference on Thursday with a promise to publish a draft bill for an independence referendum next week.

"If you remember just one word from my speech today, I want it to be this one. It begins with an 'I.' No, not that one! Not yet. The word I want you to remember is this - inclusion."

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