BREXIT has made it "clearer" that Scotland's best interests are as an independent country, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Scotland's First Minister speaking in the US talked of a "real and growing risk" that the UK will leave the EU with no deal in less than two months' time.

And she said the UK should acknowledge that the UK simply is "not remotely prepared" to leave the EU in 53 days' time.

Giving a speech at Georgetown University in the US, she again called for a second Brexit referendum and also talked of revealing the timing for a second Scottish independence referendum.

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Addressing Scottish independence, she argued that the "confusion and uncertainty of Brexit" made it clear that Scotland's national interests have been "sidelined" by a Westminster system which too often treats Scotland as an "afterthought".

She said that in the independence referendum Scotland had in 2014, voters were repeatedly told that if the nation chose to become independent, it would have to leave the European Union. 

Addressing an audience at Georgetown's Institute for Women, Peace and Security, she said:"Finding ourselves four years facing being taken out the European Union against our will really does grate on many people in Scotland considerably."

"That in itself raises the question of whether decisions about Scotland should continue to be taken at Westminster or whether it would be better if those decisions were taken in Scotland by our own democratically elected Parliament.

She added: "I as First Minister have said I will outline my thoughts on the timing of another independence referendum in the next few weeks - once the terms of Brexit have become clearer.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon to use US speech to outline possible timing of indyref2

"But amid the confusion and the uncertainty of Brexit, one thing is clearer I think than ever, Scotland's national interests are not being served by a Westminster system which too often treats Scotland as an afterthought, or too often sees our interests as not being material.

"In my view those interests can only properly be served by becoming an independent country, but an independent country that then seeks to play its part in an interconnected world.

"And that is a vision that I think more and more people in Scotland, in the wake of the Brexit experience, find very attractive."

Ms Sturgeon said that the UK Government is trying to renegotiate the EU Withdrawal agreement "with the clock ticking" and despite the EU saying it will not accept such a renegotiation.

She said: "As a result of that, there is a real and growing risk that the UK will leave the EU in 53 days' time without any deal in place.

"And that would be hugely damaging - far more so, dare I say it, than the Government shutdown you've just had here in the United States. In fact, some of the contingencies being considered - if we leave the EU without a deal - are genuinely astonishing."

She added: "First, the UK Government should confirm that it will do absolutely everything to avoid the UK leaving with no deal. It should make clear it's not prepared for the UK to leave the EU with no deal.


"And as part of that, it should acknowledge that the UK simply is not remotely prepared to leave the EU in 53 days' time. That's been obvious for a while now. So the UK Government should ask the EU to agree to put back the planned date for Brexit.

"The request for an extension of course must be accompanied by an achievable plan."

She suggested that the UK Government could think again on plans to leave the single market and customs union but added that a "better option is to hold a further referendum on EU membership".

Ms Sturgeon also warned that without free movement of people - something Theresa May has repeatedly ruled out retaining when the UK leaves the EU - there is a risk Scotland's working population will go into decline, with this bringing with it "severe economic and social consequences".

The First Minister said that Brexit is also relevant to the debate on Scottish independence.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "Nicola Sturgeon needs to stop using Brexit as an excuse to pursue her unwanted independence agenda.

"Rather than constantly seeking division and constitutional upheaval, she needs to work with the UK Government to avoid a damaging no-deal. That is what people and business in Scotland expect."

While in the US she also said the Irish Government should not change its negotiating stance on Brexit, throwing her support behind Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over the backstop.

Speaking to The Irish Times in Washington DC, Ms Sturgeon said she did not believe the Government needed to be more flexible around its demands for a backstop, the insurance policy to avoid a hard border in Ireland, amid calls from London for Ireland to compromise on its demands.

“I think Leo has been very, very clear from day one. His position has been very consistent and his position has been backed wholeheartedly by the European Union. I don’t think he could have been clearer about the reasons for the position he has taken.”

She continued: “Generally the issues affecting the island of Ireland have been completely sidelined in the whole debate, since before the referendum even happened, and now you have a whole host of mainly conservative politicians in the UK that think that Ireland should somehow take second place.”