Scotland politics

Scottish government Brexit proposals to be published

Flags outside Holyrood Image copyright PA
Image caption The "Scotland's place in Europe" paper will be published on Tuesday

The Scottish government is 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.

'Power grab'

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.

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

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Scotland's Brexit minister Michael Russell said Brexit presented "an unprecedented challenge"

He also cautioned against any attempts to use Brexit as cover for a "Westminster power grab".

He 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".

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics Scotland programme, the SNP's foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond said concerns about the impact of Brexit and future access to the single market could prove decisive in any future referendum on independence.

'Philip Hammond-type attitude'

He said: "Nicola Sturgeon has said, I think quite correctly, we want the UK to stay in the single market place with the other protections.

"If that's not possible we're publishing a strategy which shows how Scotland could do that. And if the UK government says 'oh, we're not interested in what Scotland has to say' - if they have a Philip Hammond-type of attitude as opposed to Theresa May's initial words on this, then of course we'd be in a different context, and I think a strong position to have that independence campaign."

He also set out what issues were important to the first minister in the context of Brexit. He said: "Nicola Sturgeon has put forward her priorities - staying in the single market, proper and equal treatment for other Europeans and the rights of Scottish workers - the protections which are currently bestowed by European law legislation.

"I'm sure in the strategy document that's to be published this week, she'll be outlining a range of other things that Scotland requires, particularly the powers that we will need to secure Scotland's position.

"Of course there are certain powers, for example fishing, agriculture, but also some control of immigration, that would be required within the single market place for Scotland to operate within it, as well as the full powers of Scottish independence."

Image caption Alex Salmond said Brexit negotiations would impact on any future independence referendum

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

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".

'Sensible discussions'

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.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Philip Hammond insisted that Scotland's views would be taken into account

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".

Scottish Labour's Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald said his party had been calling for full transparency from the SNP for months.

'Hard border'

He added: "We want a close relationship with Europe, which should mean access to the single market. But it important to realise that access is different to membership.

"Britain is leaving the EU, and it is very hard to see any way in which Scotland could remain in both the United Kingdom and the single European market. Expert after expert has said as much since summer.

"Scottish Labour will categorically reject any proposal that would put our place in the UK at risk, or could lead to a hard border with England."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said his party would examine the SNP's plans when they were published.

He added: "Unlike all the others, Liberal Democrats want Scotland to remain in the UK and the UK to remain in the EU.

"The best route to remain in Europe is through a Brexit deal referendum. People should be given a say on the detail of the Brexit deal rather than hand the prime minister a blank cheque to agree anything she likes no matter the consequences.

"If the SNP are so much in favour of the EU they should join us in that campaign."

The Scottish Greens said the government's plans needed to be comprehensive and feature key areas of policy.

The party's external affairs spokesman Ross Greer said: "The Scottish government has been robust in defending our interests so far.

"Nevertheless, the much anticipated options paper must include certain guarantees if the government wants the support of Green MSPs.

"It must have a focus on free movement, workers' rights and environmental protections. And it must make the case for Scottish - or continued UK- membership of the Single Market."

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