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25 July 2016, 18:24
UK politicians failed to prepare for a vote for Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon has said, describing it as "one of the most shameful abdications of responsibility in modern political history''.
Scotland's First Minister also criticised what she described as a "lack of leadership'' from the UK Government and those leading the campaign to leave the European Union (EU) in the days following the referendum result.
Ms Sturgeon was setting out her next steps in securing Scotland's position in Europe, a month on from the Brexit vote, at a speech in Edinburgh.
She said after the vote it had been the "the job of politicians not to pretend somehow that we instantly had all the answers but to give a sense of direction, to try to create some order out of the chaos''.
"That's what I was determined to do for Scotland and I assumed that UK politicians would do likewise,'' she said.
"It turned out I was wrong about that.
"In fact, the absence of any leadership and the lack of any advance planning both from the politicians who proposed the referendum and from those who campaigned a leave vote surely must count as one of the most shameful abdications of responsibility in modern political history.''
The First Minister has previously said a second independence vote was "highly likely'' in order to protect Scotland's place in Europe, but promised to explore other ways of achieving this.
Speaking at the conference of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank, Ms Sturgeon said independence may emerge as the option which offers "the greatest certainty, stability and the maximum control over our own destiny''.
"In seeking to chart a way forward for Scotland, independence wasn't my starting point - that remains the case,'' she said.
"Protecting Scotland's interests is my starting point, and I am determined to explore all options to do that.
"But I am equally clear about this - if we find that our interest can't be protected in a UK context, independence must be one of those options and Scotland must have the right to consider that option.
"That's why we will take the preparatory steps to make sure it is an option open to the Scottish Parliament if the Scottish Parliament considers it necessary.
"I don't pretend that independence would be straightforward. It would bring its own challenges as well as many opportunities.
"But consider this - the UK that we voted to stay part of in 2014, a UK within the EU, is fundamentally changing.
"The outlook for the UK is uncertainty, upheaval and unpredictability.
"In these circumstances it may well be that the option that offers us the greatest certainty, stability and the maximum control over our own destiny is independence.''