Palo Alto (United States) (AFP) - Nicola Sturgeon made the case for Scottish independence in an address in Silicon Valley Tuesday, arguing firmly against the anti-immigration trend that helped trigger Brexit.
The Scottish government last week formally asked British Prime Minister Theresa May for a second referendum on independence, deepening a constitutional crisis two days after Britain launched the process of leaving the EU.
Sturgeon wrote to May telling her Scotland did not want to leave Europe's single market.
"Scotland faces being forced to leave the European Union against our will," Sturgeon told a packed audience at Stanford University in Silicon Valley.
"The UK is not just leaving the EU; there is a danger developing it will leave the EU in the most damaging way possible."
She said Scotland wants independence to promote fairness and prosperity, and also "play a big part" in the broader world
While in California, Sturgeon met with governor Jerry Brown to discuss the fight against climate change -- one of the factors driving refugee movements around the world.
"The underpinning that independent nations work together for the common good appeals to me and many people across Scotland," said the leader of the ruling Scottish National Party
Losing membership in the EU could hurt Scotland's universities, farms, businesses and more, Sturgeon reasoned.
And while calls to curb immigration were a key driver in the campaign for Brexit, Sturgeon maintained that Scotland had enjoyed an economic boom thanks to immigrants.
"It is totally counter-productive for the UK to emphasize immigration over any other aspect of Brexit, but it is particularly counter-productive for Scotland," Sturgeon said.
- Get the facts out -
Scotland voted to remain in the EU in last year's Brexit referendum, while Britain as a whole voted to leave.
Sturgeon suggested Scotland may have been less susceptible to the backlash against globalization that fuelled support for Brexit, thanks to policies that both welcomed immigrants, and sought to make workers better educated and valued.
"Scotland has adopted policies with fairness and inclusion at heart, which could explain why Scotland voted different than Great Britain," Sturgeon said.
"There was, maybe, less of a sense of people being left behind and disenfranchised."
While Sturgeon's SNP warns against being "dragged out of the EU", a survey by NatCen Social Research found Scottish people have broadly the same opinions on the European Union as the rest of Britain.
Professor John Curtice, senior research fellow at NatCen, said: "For the most part voters on both sides of the border want much the same outcome -- free trade, immigration control and retention of much of the consumer and environmental regulation currently afforded by the EU."
Sturgeon said detailed information on the economic ramifications of Scottish independence was being prepared for a second vote that she expected to take place.
"The Brexit debate was reduced to a single slogan," Sturgeon said of her drive to get facts out to Scottish voters.
"I wouldn't want the independence of my country to be won on a campaign that was as dishonest as the Brexit campaign."
Sturgeon argues that circumstances have changed since a 2014 independence referendum in which 55 percent voted to stay part of Britain.
She said the government had rejected "all attempts at compromise" on Brexit -- a reference to her proposal for Scotland to be allowed to stay in the European single market even as the rest of Britain leaves.
The Scottish Parliament voted by 69 votes to 59 for another referendum, but it cannot hold a legally-binding vote without London's approval.
A British government spokeswoman has reiterated May's position that "now is not the time" for a second independence referendum, adding that it "will not be entering into negotiations on the Scottish government's proposal".