The Scottish Secretary has said he is open to a “differential arrangement” for Scotland in negotiations for leaving the European Union (EU) if it was supported by evidence.
David Mundell told Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee that he hoped forthcoming Scottish Government proposals for a Scotland-specific deal would be “workable and credible”.
He said he believed the Scottish and UK governments could agree “shared priorities and a shared plan” before the triggering of two-year withdrawal talks under Article 50 of the EU treaties, which Prime Minister Theresa May has said will take place by the end of March.
Mr Mundell said: “I am open, and I’ve said it before, to a differential arrangement for Scotland if it can be factually shown that there is a benefit to Scotland from doing that, not just an ideological view that Scotland should somehow be different.”
He added: “I believe that if facts demonstrate that there is a benefit and a need for a differentiated Scottish position, then that should form part of the negotiating process.
“What I don’t believe is that your starting point should automatically be that there should be some separate Scottish arrangement.
“If we look at all the two significant issues, the single market and migration, all the information I have currently before me - but I’m open to and have always been open to hear new information and new argument - indicates that the issue about access to the single market is the same across the whole of the UK. It’s vitally important we get the best possible access.
“Likewise, in relation to migration, it’s important for all parts of the UK that we’ll continue to be able to have people come to the UK to provide vital work in our country.
“Neither of these issues, as I see them, are specifically Scottish and therefore you would not necessarily look for a Scotland-specific solution, but if evidence was brought forward, and we want to proceed on a factual basis, then, of course, and I was convinced of that, I would argue for that.”
Mr Mundell said he was looking forward to hearing the Scottish Government position “because I would like to take that forward”.
“I hope they come forward with something that is workable, that is credible, that is able to be taken forward and I would want to work closely with and support that,” he said.
Asked if he thought the Scottish Government was committed to making Brexit work for the whole of the UK, he added: “Behind the scenes, with officials working away in the Scottish Government very assiduously in terms of the research and analysis that they are doing, I think it’s perfectly possible for us to reach a position where we go in to triggering Article 50 with a shared priorities and a shared plan.
“That’s my objective because that’s what is in the best interest of Scotland and the United Kingdom.
“What’s not in the interests of the UK as a whole, or I believe Scotland, is actually having a fragmented approach to these negotiations and discussions.”
Mr Mundell also called for “good quality and proper engagement” over where powers being repatriated from the EU would rest and reiterated that no Holyrood powers would be “re-reserved” by Westminster as a result of Brexit.