Minister under pressure

Russell accused of ‘flight of fancy’ over EU claims

Mike Russell: answer needed (photo by Terry Murden)
Mike Russell: answer needed (photo by Terry Murden)

Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit minister, has been accused of engaging in a “flight of fancy” by spinning various claims about Scotland to an audience in Brussels.

The Scottish Conservatives taped his address in which he admitted the Scottish Government is holding discussions with Spain on a separate deal for Scotland.

The Spanish Government has already registered its opposition to a separate Scottish deal on Brexit.

However, when asked if talks were under way, Mr Russell is reported as saying: “I am not going to reveal everybody’s conversations, but I think you can take it that as intelligent people we would not be talking in these terms unless we were having conversations.”

The Conservatives released extracts of Mr Russell’s comments which were made yesterday to an audience of EU officials and diplomats but were not reported. 

They say that he claimed to his audience that five million citizens in Scotland voted to Remain when the figure was 1.6m.

The Tories also say that he incorrectly claimed to the audience that – apart from four Scottish Conservative MSPs – nobody in the Scottish Parliament supported Brexit.

SNP MSP Alex Neil has said he voted to leave the European Union, while Jim Sillars has also claimed that as many as six SNP MSPs voted to leave, but have been told not to speak out.

Expanding on his plans to spell out a “differentiated deal” for Scotland, the Tories claim that Mr Russell declared that a separate EEA/EFTA deal for Scotland was “not ruled out”. 

Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan said: “In front of a sympathetic audience in Brussels, it appears Mike Russell has gone on a flight of fancy.

“Now he’s back home, he needs to explain himself as a matter of urgency.

“Has he been holding discussions with the Spanish Government on a separate Scottish deal on Brexit, as he suggested at this meeting? If so, what is the nature of those discussions?

“He also needs to correct the record. He claimed that five million Scots voted to remain in the EU, which is clearly nonsense when the correct figure is 1.6 million.

“We know that SNP MSP Alex Neil supported Brexit and that as many as six other SNP MSPs did likewise.

“Yet Mr Russell has gone to Brussels and tried to paint a completely false picture.

“As is typical of the SNP, when they think they can get away with telling complete untruths, they will always do so.

“Mr Russell also claims that a so-called Norway deal is ‘on the table’ – despite the fact that Norway’s own trade minister has ruled it out.

“The SNP is using Brexit to drive forward its unwanted case for independence. Mr Russell’s day-trip to Brussels has once again shown that this is a government which cannot be trusted to represent all of Scotland.”

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