First Minister urges Holyrood rivals to support Europe proposals
Nicola Sturgeon has called on opposition parties at Holyrood to get behind her proposals to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.
The First Minister earlier published detailed plans to keep Scotland in the European single market.
In a statement to Holyrood, she said: “To those who say they want to protect Scotland’s place in Europe but won’t get behind these proposals, the question will be: if not this plan, then what?
“Simply criticising the Scottish Government’s proposals without coming up with alternatives will be tantamount to telling Scotland that it simply has to suck up whatever the Tory Brexit government at Westminster decides, no matter how damaging.
“I suspect that will be the position of the Scottish Conservatives but it will be a much harder, I would suggest impossible, position for Labour and the Liberals to explain.”
Failing a “soft Brexit”, in which the UK as a whole would stay in the single market and the customs union, Ms Sturgeon has proposed an arrangement which would allow Scotland to remain in the free trade bloc – through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA) – even if the rest of the country leaves it.
She has also called for more powers to be devolved to Holyrood after Brexit in areas such as immigration and employment law.
Iain Macwhirter: Why Brexit will be on Christmas bill of fare
Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t accept there is a mandate to take any part of the UK out of the single market.
“It would make no economic sense whatsoever for the UK to leave the single market, in fact it would be economic folly of the highest order.
“It would be entirely democratically sensible for the UK to remain in the single market.”
She said she “reluctantly accepts” this seems an “unlikely outcome” given the UK Government’s position.
She added: “The Tories, quite unbelievably in my view, seem intent on placing a higher priority on cutting immigration than on absolutely anything else – the economy, jobs, living standards, all lag way behind on their list of priorities.”
Earlier in the day, Scotland’s Brexit minister Mike Russell had been expected to deliver the ministerial statement to parliament but was replaced by the First Minister.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: “It is vital that the SNP government begins to recognise that we achieve more by pulling together and not pulling apart.
“We believe that there is plenty of scope to do just that. There is plenty of room for agreement between the UK and Scottish governments, perhaps more than the SNP likes to think.”
Ms Davidson said both administrations wanted a deal which will deliver the most free trade possible between the UK and EU, and which will allow firms to continue to sell and operate in the single market.
“I am confident that the Scottish Government and the UK Government can work together to achieve that.”
She said she questioned other areas of the Scottish Government’s paper, including the assertion that UK free trade would not be damaged if Scotland were to remain in the single market while the rest of the country leaves.
She also questioned whether the proposals were being used to “manoeuvre for independence”.
“Isn’t it time to end the threat of transitioning to something that people in Scotland don’t want and have roundly rejected?” Ms Davidson said.
Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said her party supported the Scottish Government’s right to be fully involved in the Brexit negotiations, agreed the best outcome would be for the whole of the UK to stay in the single market and customs union, and supported calls for more powers.
The party had disagreed when “the SNP suggested that the European single market was somehow more important to Scotland than the UK single market”, she said.
“That is clearly wrong. The First Minister should therefore accept that and end the uncertainty facing our economy by ruling out a second independence referendum.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said it was “regrettable that the First Minister has given up on the UK remaining part of the European Union despite committing to explore all of the options”.
Scottish Greens external affairs spokesman Ross Greer said: “The Greens welcome the Scottish Government’s proposing options for Scotland’s continuing relationship with Europe but today’s proposals make a significant compromise though – they are not what our electorate voted for and they amount to damage limitation, not a positive solution for Scotland.”
He said further concessions would result in “unacceptable damage to Scotland”.
Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh criticised the Scottish Government for making a statement to media on Scotland’s place in Europe prior to an announcement to parliament.
Ms Sturgeon faced a range of questions from MSPs on the implications of her proposed differentiated deal for Scotland, including the effect on business regulations and the potential for a hard border to be created within the UK.
She said: “Some of what is proposed in this paper already happens.
“There is probably nothing in here that in some way, shape or form – albeit different in detail and different in scale – doesn’t apply in some other part of Europe or the world.
“S,o that should give us great confidence that if there is the political will there is no reason why we can’t achieve the ambitions set out in here.”