Sturgeon urges an '˜all-Scotland' coalition to fight hard Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: TSPLNicola Sturgeon. Picture: TSPL
Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: TSPL

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Nicola Sturgeon is to urge politicians, business and universities to join an 'all-Scotland' coalition to oppose a hard Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon today said a plan for Scotland staying in the single market in the event of the rest of the UK going for a hard Brexit would be published within weeks.

In a speech to the National Economic Forum (NEF), the First Minister said it would be wrong for UK Government ministers to close their minds to a flexible solution for Scotland during Brexit talks.

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The First Minister said Scotland must be part of discussions taking place over special arrangements for different sectors or parts of the UK.

Her view was echoed by Scotland’s Brexit minister Mike Russell when he made a statement to MSPs at Holyrood. Mr Russell said it would make “no logical, political or economic sense” for the UK Government not to consider a special deal for Scotland.

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Addressing the NEF in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was undertaking an “extensive programme of engagement” with EU institutions and member states.

“In a few weeks’ time, as a result of all that work, we will be in a position to set out options for how Scotland could retain single market membership, in the event of the rest of the UK opting for a hard Brexit and leaving the single market altogether,” Ms Sturgeon said.

The proposal, which will be published before Christmas, will be in the public domain before the UK Government triggers Article 50 in March next year.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We’re already hearing discussion and debate about the possibility of special arrangements for different parts of the UK. The necessity, in my view, for special arrangements for Northern Ireland to protect the peace process and avoid a hard border between North and South. We’re hearing similar discussions about Gibraltar, as well as similar discussions about particular economic sectors - like car manufacturing and financial services.

“So there is already a discussion about flexibility, and I think it is important that Scotland is part of that discussion. It would be wrong, and not credible, for the UK Government to consider flexible solutions for other areas or sectors but close their mind for that in Scotland.”

At Holyrood, Mr Russell warned time is running out to prevent Scotland and the UK from driving off a “hard Brexit cliff” and attacked the UK Government for having “no coherent plan” for EU withdrawal.

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Mr Russell also said the Scottish Government’s draft referendum legislation would be in place in time for a second vote to be triggered before the UK leaves the EU.

Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins accused the Scottish Government of “wasting everybody’s time” with the push for a new independence referendum. He said: “We’ve already answered this question, we said no, and the SNP signed an agreement that they would abide by and respect the answer, so why have they ratted on that agreement?”