‘Vast majority’ of Scots fearful of Brexit

Less than four years ago Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. Picture: TSPL
Less than four years ago Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. Picture: TSPL
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Scots believe Brexit will be bad for business and investment, as well as hitting education and the environment, a report published by MSPs has found.

Holyrood’s European committee found “serious concerns” about the impact of Brexit from 150 organisations and individuals, compiled in a report titled What Scotland Thinks.

Committee convener Joan McAlpine said it was clear a “vast majority” thought Brexit would be bad for Scotland.

The SNP MSP said: “Scotland thinks Brexit is bad for business and investment, bad for workers’ protection, bad for education and bad for the environment. There was considerable concern about leaving the single market and the customs union, and the lack of certainty about what will replace them.”

Concerns over the status of EU citizens in Scotland were among the issues put to MSPs during their inquiry into Scotland’s looking departure from the EU. Future co-operation in initiatives such as the European Arrest Warrant and with bodies such as Europol, and how the volume of EU law in the UK will be dealt with were also raised.

Witnesses in the education sector highlighted concerns over college and university budgets, research funding and future participation in EU exchange programmes such as Erasmus.

On agriculture and fisheries, uncertainty was expressed over issues including the replacement of the Common Agricultural Policy, while it was acknowledged there could be potential opportunities for Scotland-specific ­policies.

Questions were asked about how Scotland and the UK would meet legally-binding climate change emissions targets given a reliance on involvement in EU initiatives to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Deputy convener Lewis Macdonald of Labour said: “Our report also sets out concerns about two further areas.

“Firstly, how we will be able to increase the number of economically-active people in Scotland if we cannot retain and attract workers from other EU member states.

“Secondly, whether existing EU laws in the areas of environment, employment and social policy will be weakened or more poorly enforced.”

Other issues raised included the impact on equalities law and human rights, and the possibility of further devolution when powers are repatriated from the EU.

The evidence was taken before the Scottish Government set out its proposals for a differentiated settlement for Scotland and before Prime Minister Theresa May made her speech revealing her priorities for the Brexit negotiations, including leaving the single market.

Scottish Greens external affairs spokesman Ross Greer said: “This cross-party report, drawn from vast amounts of evidence submitted by everyone from farmers to trade unions to business owners, makes clear that Brexit will be bad for Scotland in just about every way imaginable.”

He said an independence referendum now feels “all but inevitable”.