Downing Street has warned Nicola Sturgeon she risks damaging the UK’s chances of a favourable Brexit deal by demanding separate terms for Scotland.
The comments come as the First Minister prepares to publish proposals to keep Scotland in the EU single market in order to avoid the “devastating” cost of a hard Brexit.
Ms Sturgeon will call for powers over immigration, trade and employment rights to be devolved so Scotland can stick to rules governing the European trading area, and maintain access free from tariffs or barriers.
The First Minister and the Prime Minister spoke on the telephone yesterday morning. Mrs May later told MPs she had given her assurance that the plans would be considered “very seriously”.
However, Chancellor Philip Hammond last month dismissed the idea of a separate Brexit deal for Scotland as “not a realistic prospect”, and a number of UK ministers have ruled out devolution of immigration powers to Holyrood.
At the weekend, the First Minister reiterated her threat to call for a second independence referendum unless the UK’s Brexit deal takes account of her demands.
Asked if the UK government would consider further devolution to Scotland as part of the Brexit settlement, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are committed as we leave the European Union to getting a deal that works for the UK as a whole. That means a deal that works for Scotland as well.
“We want a deal that allows British firms to have maximum access and freedom to operate within and with the single market and we are of the opinion that we will get the best deal for the UK if the UK is unified in its response. That will maximise the impact of our negotiations.
“The referendum decision was taken by the UK as a whole. The UK as a whole will leave the European Union.”
The Number 10 spokesman added: “We’ve already made it very clear that the devolved administrations will play an important role as the UK leaves the European Union and that’s why we’ve set up a joint ministerial council.”
Speaking ahead of the publication today of a paper on ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’, Ms Sturgeon said staying in the single markets was “vital for Scotland’s future economic wellbeing”.
“Losing our place in the single market would be potentially devastating to our long-term prosperity, to jobs, investment and people’s livelihoods,” the First Minister said.
“It would end our current status as part of the world’s biggest free trade area, a market around eight times bigger than the UK’s alone, and would have a profound and long-lasting impact on our national economic standing and our standards of living.”
Ms Sturgeon highlighted forecasts suggesting the cost to Scotland from leaving the single market could reach £11 billion by 2030, or £2,000 per person, with 80,000 jobs put at risk. The Scottish Government’s proposals “deserve full and proper consideration”, the First Minister added.
Scottish Labour’s Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald said Scotland could not remain in both the single market and the UK after Brexit, and warned his party would reject any proposals that put the Union at risk.
“We want a close relationship with Europe, which should mean access to the single market. But it is important to realise that access is different to membership,” Mr Macdonald said.
“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.”
Updating MPs on last week’s European Council meeting in Brussels, the Prime Minister said the remaining 27 states were not prepared to enter discussions over the status of EU nationals in the UK until she triggers withdrawal talks – something she again vowed to do before the end of March.