Sunday, 18 December 2016

Scotland To Unveil Its Brexit Plan


The Scottish government is ready to publish its proposals for Scotland's future relationship with the EU after Brexit.

A paper titled "Scotland's place in Europe" will be published on Tuesday.

Brexit minister Michael Russell said it would include plans to retain a place for Scotland in the single market and new devolved powers for Holyrood.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she is "willing to listen to options", but Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested a special deal is "not realistic".

The Scottish government has been studying its options around Brexit, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon setting up a "standing council" of experts for advice.

Ms Sturgeon has outlined five key interests for Scotland in the process, including access to the European single market, protection for workers' rights, a say in shaping rules and the need to "make sure Scotland's voice is heard".

In June's EU referendum, 62% of those who turned out in Scotland backed remain, to 38% for leave.

Mr Russell said the SNP government's ideal position would be for Scotland to be an independent EU member state, but said it had committed to putting forward "compromise proposals" to "mitigate the Brexit damage".

He said: "At the heart of our plan is a framework to keep Scotland's place in the European single market.

"That is vital for jobs, investment and our long-term prosperity, which are all seriously threatened by the hard Brexit now championed by the right-wing of the Tory party.

"This plan advocates continued single-market membership for the whole of the UK - but also outlines ways in which that could be achieved for Scotland, even if the rest of the UK leaves the single market.

"We do not underestimate the complexities involved. However, Brexit presents everyone with an unprecedented challenge, and with political goodwill on all sides and a willingness to co-operate, these proposals can effect a solution for Scotland."

Mr Russell said the paper would also target a "substantial transfer of new powers to Holyrood", reflecting the fact that Brexit will see powers come back to the UK from Brussels.

He said: "There must be no attempt to use Westminster as cover for a Westminster power grab.

"The plans we outline to maintain Scotland's place in the single market will also require new powers to be devolved to Edinburgh.

"Our intention is that these proposals can be discussed and agreed in a UK context and then form part of the UK government's overall negotiating position when Article 50 is triggered."

It is expected that the proposals will also be announced to MSPs at Holyrood at some stage.

The UK government has repeatedly pledged to listen to options and engage with the devolved administrations, but has warned their leaders not to "undermine the UK's position".

After Chancellor Philip Hammond visited Edinburgh earlier in December, the Scottish government insisted that he indicated he "looked forward to hearing our proposals" and said they would be "considered fully".

However, Mr Hammond himself appeared to rule out a special Brexit deal for Scotland, 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 negotiates 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".

Mr Hammond said he wanted to work closely with the Scottish government and the other devolved administrations in order to "secure the best possible deal" for all parts of the UK, and also called for "sensible discussions" over what new powers are devolved to Holyrood post-Brexit.

Ahead of the publication of the latest Scottish government's EU proposals, Mr Mundell said: "We'll consider the Scottish government's proposals carefully.

"I hope to see plans that are credible and backed up by evidence. I also hope they commit to working closely with us - a Team UK approach - to get the best possible deal.

"That is how we will get the right deal for the whole of the UK - and the right deal for the UK will be the right deal for Scotland".



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