Nicola Sturgeon to set out Scottish Brexit proposals

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The Scottish government is to publish its proposals for future relations with Europe after the UK leaves the EU.

At Bute House, Nicola Sturgeon will set out her proposals for access to the single market and new devolved powers for the Scottish Parliament.

She will also provide an update to MSPs at Holyrood in the afternoon.

Ms Sturgeon spoke to Theresa May on Monday, with the prime minister pledging to look “very seriously” at the proposals put forward.

Mrs May has repeatedly said she is willing to listen to the options put forward by the devolved administrations, although her Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested that a special deal for Scotland is “not realistic”.

Ms Sturgeon set up a “standing council” of experts on Europe in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum in June, saying she wanted to examine “all options” open to her government – including the possibility of a second independence referendum.

Her Brexit minister Mike Russell said the paper published on Tuesday would be chiefly concerned with “compromise” positions focused on Scotland’s options as part of the UK, rather than the SNP’s preferred scenario of an independent Scotland remaining a full EU member state.

‘Potentially devastating’

Ms Sturgeon said access to the European single market would be “vital for Scotland’s future economic wellbeing”.

She said: “Losing our place in the Single Market would be potentially devastating to our long-term prosperity, to jobs, investment and people’s livelihoods.

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Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, pictured here in July, spoke about the Brexit proposals on Monday

“It is not just the loss of existing jobs and investment that would be at stake. In addition, there is the prospect of lost investment and employment – money and jobs which our place in the single market would ensure but which would otherwise never materialise.

“That is why the paper we publish today is centred on retaining our place in the single market – and why it is so important Scotland avoids the hard Brexit threatened by the right-wing Brexiteers in the Tory party.”

During a question session at Westminster on Monday, Mrs May was pressed on whether she would listen to the Scottish government’s proposals and revealed that she had spoken to Ms Sturgeon earlier in the day.

‘Structure in place’

She said: “I took a call from the first minister this morning where I assured her we will look very seriously at the proposals the Scottish government is taking forward.

“I welcome the fact they have been looking at their priorities, we have been encouraging all the devolved administrations to look at their priorities so they can be taken into account in the UK negotiations on leaving the European Union.

“There is already a structure in place which allows us to discuss these with the devolved authorities, the joint ministerial council, and we will be meeting in early January.

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“We are increasing the number of meetings precisely so we can engage with the devolved administrations on these issues.”

Earlier in the month, Mr Hammond appeared to rule out a special Brexit deal for Scotland during a visit to Edinburgh, saying it was “not realistic”.

He told reporters that it was “clear that we can’t have a different deal or different outcomes for different parts of the UK”, and added that it would be a “disadvantage” for Scotland to be outside whatever new relationship the UK negotiated with the EU.

This echoed earlier comments from Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who told MSPs that while Scotland’s concerns would be “right at the heart of the process”, there would be no “special deal”.

‘Complete denial’

The Scottish Conservatives said Ms Sturgeon was “in denial” over its Brexit plans.

The party’s constitution spokesman Adam Tomkins said: “The SNP has been warned repeatedly in recent weeks that its plan for a separate Scottish deal – leading to a hard economic border with England – would damage Scotland and damage Scottish jobs.

“Yet it seems to be in complete denial about the consequences of its actions. We need to know – why is everyone else wrong, and why is only the SNP right?

“As in the independence referendum, it appears that the SNP has decided to ignore the facts.”

Scottish Labour’s Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald said his party would scrutinise the proposals and hold the SNP to account on whether they could actually be delivered.

He said: “The SNP’s Brexit paper should accept that remaining in the UK is even more important to Scotland than being part of the European Union.

“Labour will oppose any attempts by the SNP to use Brexit as an excuse to force another independence referendum on the people of Scotland.”

The Scottish Greens called for guarantees over free movement, workers’ rights and membership of the single market, with Europe spokesman Ross Greer saying he was “deeply concerned by the lack of credible options for keeping our place in the European Union”.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie called on the SNP to “heal the division in the country” by keeping the issue of independence out of the paper, while calling for a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal.

Nicola Sturgeon to set out Scottish Brexit proposals}

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