Nicola Sturgeon has blasted the Westminister Government in her opening speech on the debate on the EU Withdrawal Negotiations in the Scottish Parliament.

The First Minister said that the Prime Minister should stop "pretending that changes to the backstop are possible despite all of the evidence to the contrary" and she should accept that her plan is a "thoroughly bad deal" which would be a "long term social and economic disaster"

She called for the rejection of Theresa May's deal in favour of a second vote on the EU referendum stating that "The Scottish Government has made clear that we see continued EU membership as the best outcome for Scotland and the UK.

"And if it can’t be secured for the UK as a whole, we believe that option should be open to Scotland as an independent country."

She opened the debate by emphasising that it was the first time that both the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have opened debates at the same time on the same motion. She said that the Welsh and Scottish Government had "been brought together by our dismay – bordering now on despair – at the UK Government’s approach to Brexit."

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In an address to the chamber, she said: "As recently as last summer, the Prime Minister confidently told me that by the autumn of last year, not only would we know the terms of exit, we would also know significant detail about the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

"And yet here we are, just 24 days until the UK is due to leave the EU. And still we don’t know if there will be any agreed terms of exit. We don’t know if there will be a transition phase."

"And the terms of the future relationship are not much more than a blank sheet of paper. The potential consequences for businesses, communities, individuals and public services growmore stark by the day.

"In the face of all this chaos, the Prime Minister is showing no decisive leadership. Instead of doing the right thing and ruling out a no deal exit at any stage, she insists on freewheeling the car ever closer to the cliff edge. 

"She is trying to run down the clock, making undeliverable promises to hardline Brexiteers and offering tawdry, half baked bribes to Labour MPs."

"Her one note of consistency in all of this has been contempt for Scotland. Seemingly, we aren’t even worthy of her bribes - though I think we should take that as a compliment.

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"The domestic and international standing of the Westminster system of government has surely never been lower in any of our lifetimes. This fiasco should not be allowed to continue for even one day more. The Scottish and Welsh Parliaments are today making three demands.

"The first is that the prospect of leaving the EU with no deal is ruled out - not just at the end of March, but at any time."

The First Minister also called for an extension to Article 50, insisting that the Scottish Government was doing everything it could to prevent Brexit and prepare for a no-deal exit. 

Nicola Sturgeon said: "The third is that an extension of Article 50 is essential and urgent, and must be requested now. The demand to rule out a “no-deal” scenario is, I hope, supported across this chamber.

"The Scottish Government is doing everything we can to plan for and mitigate the impact of a no-deal Brexit. The UK Government’s own forecasts predict that a no-deal scenario could reduce GDP by 9% over a 15 year period. But you just need to look at the nature of the preparations to know that the impact would be much more immediate."

She also hit out at the "unforgivably reckless" approach of the UK Government saying: "The UK government has been buying fridges to stockpile medicine. It has been testing motorways and airfields in Kent for use as lorry parks. It has been awarding and then cancelling ferry contracts to businesses which don’t even have ships.

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"It has been taking steps which should be inconceivable in a developed economy in peacetime. And all of it to plan for an avoidable outcome which, if it happens, will be by choice."

She called for the threat of a No-deal Brexit to be withdrawn stating that "the response to the rejection of Theresa May’s deal has so far been characterised by delays, denials, dishonesty and most recently desperate attempts at bribery." 

Urging ministers to reject the Prime Minister's deal, she said that the deal from Theresa May "provides no clarity whatsoever on what our long-term future relationship with the EU looks like. The UK Parliament is effectively being asked to approve a “blindfold Brexit”.

"In short, the deal on the table guarantees more years of uncertainty during which Scotland’s interests will be at the mercy of a vicious, and seemingly never-ending, Tory civil war – one where the extreme Brexiteers are currently in the ascendancy.

"Part and parcel of the approach taken in the PM’s deal is the end of freedom of movement. Combined with the despicable hostile migration policy, that could lead to a fall in the number of people working in Scotland and paying tax here.

"The NHS and social care will pay a particularly heavy price if EU nationals are deterred from working here.

"It could open up our markets to US products which, for very good reasons, are currently banned. And it will damage our economy, our living standards and our NHS.

For all these reasons, and more, it must be rejected."

Concluding her speech she called for a second referendum stating that Scotland had made it clear that it wished to remain in the EU/ 

"The Scottish Government has made clear that we see continued EU membership as the best outcome for Scotland and the UK.

"And if it can’t be secured for the UK as a whole, we believe that option should be open to Scotland as an independent country.

"The UK Government has ignored us at all stages."

"We need an extension long enough to enable a better path to be taken. This could open the way again to the possibility of a single market and customs union compromise.

"However the preferable alternative option, in my view, is now a second EU referendum. There is a strong democratic case for it.

"But simply pressing ahead with Brexit - knowing that we are heading for disaster - makes no sense. After all, whatever most people voted for, it clearly wasn’t where we are now.

"A second referendum provides everyone with a second chance. While Scotland, of course, has the option of independence, for the UK as a whole, another referendum is now the best of the options available."