Mr Russell made the remark as he criticised the UK Government’s treatment of Nicola Sturgeon’s paper on protecting Scotland’s relationship with the EU and accused it of being “obsessed” with stopping immigration.
His comments were made while addressing the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) conference in Glasgow and were reported on the Common Space website.
: “I have to negotiate, on behalf of Scotland, with people who are absolutely obsessed with stopping immigration,” Mr Russell said.
“Their vision of a society they want to live in, is a very hard society indeed, a society that looks for the triumph of the fittest and has no compassion at all. That’s not a society I want to see in Scotland.”
He expressed frustration at the UK Government’s response to the “Scotland in Europe”, but said he still sought a compromise solution to EU withdrawal which involved the maintenance of Scottish/EU free trading relationship.
“It comes down to a choice between those two societies,” Mr Russell said. “There is only one further option, which is to say to the people of Scotland ‘do you want that society, or do you want to choose independence and have this society’? I don’t think there’s any doubt that’s where we are moving to.”
“We don’t have to get there. We have tried, in the national interest, to find another way of doing this. But it does take two to tango, and the UK Government aren’t presently on the dance floor with us.”