Leader: Sturgeon must focus on the European single market

Sillars is not impressed by the SNP's strategic thinking over Europe. Picture: Neil Hanna
Sillars is not impressed by the SNP's strategic thinking over Europe. Picture: Neil Hanna
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As a Brexit supporter, former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars can be expected to take issue with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, even if both share the main objective of Scottish independence. Sturgeon sees Brexit as a possible road to independence, if the process of leaving the EU goes wrong; Sillars fears that opposition to Brexit which is seen as obstructive will create a backlash against Scottish independence.

Sillars clearly disagrees with Sturgeon’s approach, and he has a valid point about the long-term game. If the Scottish Government was to “sabotage” Brexit, as he puts it, there would be consequences. Sturgeon and the SNP could indeed expect to be on the receiving end of similar tactics should Scottish independence ever be at stake. All is fair in love and war, and politics as well of course.

He also points out that the Brexit ballot paper “had nothing to do with Scotland” despite the Scottish vote delivering a majority for Remain.

Tomorrow, Sturgeon will publish an analysis paper on Scotland’s future relationship with Europe, post Brexit, and it is expected to contain grim warnings of what will be lost, as well as what would be the most desirable outcomes of an undesirable event. Sturgeon is entitled to state her view that a hard Brexit will have a serious negative impact on the Scottish economy if that is what she believes, but the key matter in terms of Sillars’ criticism is the issue of “sabotage”. Does trying to get the best deal out of Brexit – and for the SNP, that means staying in the single market – amount to undermining the UK government? So far, despite what her critics might claim, the First Minister has not crossed into that territory.

Ultimately, it is unlikely that the Scottish Government has the ability to disrupt or impede Brexit, even if it wanted to, in which case it should avoid making futile gestures, which would only be seen as petty. The best strategy for the First Minister is to accept that Brexit is coming and fight for Scotland’s best interests within that scenario – staying in the single market.