Mike Russell pledges to ‘redouble’ independence referendum push over Brexit impact

Scottish independence will allow the country to escape the worsening impact of Brexit and rejoin the EU, the Constitution Secretary has told MSPs.

Mike Russell said the Scottish Government would "redouble" efforts to press ahead with a fresh referendum on leaving the UK after the coronavirus pandemic has eased. He made the declaration during a statement at Holyrood on Wednesday on the impact of Brexit to Scotland’s economy.

Mr Russell warned the early problems for the fishing and fresh food industry have now spread to other sectors of the economy, meaning Scots exporters can "no longer trade freely with the EU”.

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The UK is now a "third country" in relation to the EU, Mr Russell said, with a more distant and expensive trading arrangement with its former EU partners.

Mike Russell pledged to "redouble" indyref2 pushMike Russell pledged to "redouble" indyref2 push
Mike Russell pledged to "redouble" indyref2 push

“It is an incontrovertible fact that four weeks into the new trading arrangements, the problems for businesses are not diminishing, but multiplying and spreading across different sectors of the economy,” he said.

“The disruption to the seafood sector has resulted in the damaging delays, huge costs and devastating losses, which we feared would be the outcome of becoming an EU third country and dealing with new and untested processes.

“Unfortunately it is not just the fishing part of the food industry that is being impacted. A whole new category of prohibited and restricted goods has been created, meaning Scottish exporters can no longer trade their produce freely with the EU."

Mr Russell is now urging the UK Government to improve the information it provides on emerging issues at ports.

There have been reduced freight flows across the Channel, according to Scottish ministers, with evidence hauliers are avoiding the UK altogether to avoid delays.

There are also predictions of 142,000 tons of perishable goods – including food, feed and drink – being wasted over the next six months because of border disruption, with an estimated £11 million of losses to Scottish seed potato farmers who will no longer be able to export to Europe

Mr Russell insisted independence was the longer-term solution to the impact of Brexit for Scotland, describing the country's departure from the EU as "temporary”.

"There is a way, but only one way, to rejoin," he said.

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"The only way back to it is to choose independence like virtually all the other normal, small countries in Europe have done.

"So post-pandemic we will redouble our efforts to secure that goal, which will allow us to rebuild our economy and our society in the way we wish, not in the way we ware told to by a Tory, UK Government that is the author of this continuing, terrible, costly and indeed worsening Brexit mess.

"We can make our next significant step towards normality on the 6th of May."

The SNP says if the Holyrood election on that date returns a pro-independence majority, it will be a mandate for another referendum.

Tory economy spokesman Dean Lockhart said the Scottish Government had received £200m of cash from Westminster to help businesses deal with the impact of Brexit.

He also accused the EU of “acting unreasonably” over export disruption and pointed to a report by the London School of Economics on the impact of independence.

"The cost of independence to the Scottish economy would be three times greater than Brexit,” Mr Lockhart said.

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