Scotland politics

Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon calls for single market coalition

Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Russell Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Sturgeon and Scotland's Brexit secretary, Michael Russell, met the prime minister at Downing Street on Monday

Nicola Sturgeon has urged politicians, businesses and universities to join an "all-Scotland" coalition to oppose a so-called hard Brexit.

Ms Sturgeon said it was important to present a "unified Scottish position" on the issue to the UK government.

All of Scotland's major political parties backed remaining in the EU ahead of June's referendum.

But opposition politicians have accused the first minister of using the Brexit vote to push for independence.

And Scottish fishing leaders have been holding separate meetings with the UK and Scottish governments in which they argued that leaving the UK represents a ''sea of opportunity'' for the industry.

The Scottish government has said it will bring forward specific proposals for a "flexible Brexit" that would keep Scotland in the single market, even if the rest of the UK was not part of the trading agreement, in the next few weeks.

Opening the annual National Economic Forum in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon repeated claims by some economists that a hard Brexit - in which the whole of the UK would leave the single market - could cost Scotland 80,000 jobs within a decade.

She said: "I believe a coalition can be built to keep the UK as a whole in the single market. That outcome is in the best interests of everyone in these islands.

"So we will work with other organisations and parties, not just in Scotland but across the UK, to achieve that outcome.

"And in Scotland, regardless of the positions people take on the constitutional future of Scotland, on this central issue of single market membership there is widespread agreement. Rarely has there been such unity on an issue."

'Deeply frustrating'

Ms Sturgeon also called for an "all-Scotland coalition of support for the single market", and pledged to "work constructively with all relevant parties to achieve the goal of retaining our place in Europe and single market membership."

On Monday, the first minister attended what she described as a "deeply frustrating" Brexit summit in Downing Street between Prime Minister Theresa May and the leaders of the UK's devolved governments.

Mrs May has said she will strike a bespoke Brexit deal that works for the whole of the UK, with Downing Street warning devolved governments against attempting to undermine negotiations with the EU.

The prime minister's official spokesman said on Monday: "We have been very clear that we should be working together to secure the best possible deal for the whole country.

"We expect representatives of the devolved administrations to act in that way and to in no way undermine the UK's position."

Asked about calls for different parts of the UK to be able to opt in or out of the European single market, Downing Street said a united UK negotiating position was "vital to protect the UK's interest as a whole".

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