Mike Russell moved to distance Scotland, where a majority voted to remain in the EU, from the Brexit vision put forward by Prime Minister Theresa May in her meeting with US president Donald Trump on Friday.
The pair discussed Britain’s hopes for a swift free trade agreement with the US after its withdrawal from the EU, with Mr Trump telling Mrs May that “a free and independent Britain is a blessing for the world”.
Mr Russell, speaking at the Scottish Women’s Convention’s Brexit conference in Glasgow, urged Scots to speak up for an alternative position.
He said: “Scotland has not chosen a hard right approach, it has not chosen an approach that will reduce social protections and human rights.
“It has not chosen an approach that will in actual fact mean cutting ourselves off, and it hasn’t chosen an approach based on no evidence at all.
“There is not the slightest shred of evidence that these so-called global trading opportunities can be found. The most successful exporting country in Europe is Germany, it exports far more than we do, and it’s a member of the EU. There is no need to give up what we have and try and choose things we don’t know.
“I ask of you that having considered the matter, you make your voices heard. If ever there was a time to say what you want, this is it, because it’s not about the technicalities at the end of the day, it’s about a really important principle - what sort of country do we want to live in?
“I don’t think we are the country that is being portrayed to the other 27 (EU countries), we’re not the country that was being portrayed to Donald Trump yesterday.
“We are an open, inclusive country, we are a country that cares not just for the people in our country but for our neighbours and for those in the world elsewhere.
“We are a country that wants to go on doing that and doesn’t want to be cut off.”
Mr Russell told the audience that as a result of Brexit, rights would be reduced so that “step by step, not immediately, we’re going to find ourselves in a very different world”.
He added: “If you look at the situation south of the border with a hard-line Tory Government ... it is more than likely that exiting the EU is part of a plan to reduce those employment and human rights.
“When we hear respective Tory MPs talking about the fact that what the UK will be is a powerhouse economy and global trader, what they’re talking about is reducing rights and wages in order to compete at the lowest possible level.
“And that won’t benefit a single one of us, it won’t benefit the UK.”