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Russell says hard Brexit 'catastrophic'

May has ‘offered Scotland nothing’ on EU talks

Michael Russell
Mike Russell: not a single compromise (photo by Terry Murden)

Brexit minister says nations being ignored

Scotland’s Brexit Minister Michael Russell has accused the Prime Minister of offering nothing despite promising to engage with the devolved nations over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Scottish Parliament voted against the UK government triggering Article 50 which would signal the start of Britain’s exit from the bloc.


Welcoming the parliament’s vote by 90 MSPs to 34, Mr Russell said: “Scotland’s national Parliament has today sent a clear message to the rest of the UK and Europe – we oppose a catastrophic hard Brexit that dumps Scotland outside of the single market against its wishes.

“The Prime Minister promised Scotland would be “fully engaged” in agreeing a common UK approach to triggering Article 50.

“We have taken those promises at face value and developed constructive, detailed compromise proposals showing how we can keep our place in the single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK’s alone,

“Yet so far the UK Government has offered nothing – not a single compromise in return, or even a view on our proposals.

“We do not yet know when Article 50 will be triggered, and have not been given any information about how the UK Government will seek our involvement. The promise of a “UK Agreement” on its content looks to be an empty one.

“Today’s vote is therefore a key test of whether Scotland’s voice is being listened to and whether our wishes can be accommodated within the UK process.

“There is still time for the UK Government to recognise the existence and importance of devolution, the views of this Parliament and the clear, democratically expressed voice of the people of this country – but that time is running out.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the vote was a historic moment, reaffirming the will of the people of Scotland who had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. She accused the Prime Minister Theresa May of treating the Scottish people with contempt.

Mrs May is said to be developing a “secret strategy” in the belief that Ms Sturgeon is just two weeks away from demanding a second referendum on Scottish independence, according to The Courier newspaper in Dundee.

Mrs May’s aides and the Conservative Party are laying the groundwork for talks with Scottish National Party ministers over a second constitutional vote, the newspaper reported.

Kezia Dugdale

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale (above), whose party supported the motion, said: “While I accept that the UK is leaving the European Union, I do not accept the terms Theresa May has set out.

“And that’s why I don’t believe article 50 should be triggered right now.

“Not when the Tories seem determined to deliver a settlement that will do incalculable damage to the country.

“I cannot and will not sign up to Theresa May’s vision of Brexit. Leave voters didn’t back Brexit to make themselves poorer. But that is exactly what will happen under the current plans.”

Scottish Tory chief whip John Lamont criticised political opponents for seeking to reject the Article 50 process.

Turning on its head a nationalist accusation that the Scottish Conservatives were “born-again Brexiteers”, he said it was “time for the SNP to accept the result of the EU referendum”.

He said:They’ve been on the losing side of two recent referendums, and seem unable to accept the result of either.

“And with today’s performance, it seems Scottish Labour aren’t much better at accepting the will of the people.

“The Scottish Government should be focusing on getting the best deal for both Scotland and the UK.

“It should be looking for the right solution for Scotland’s needs, especially on matters like farming, fisheries, trade and research support.

“We are entering a challenging time, with pitfalls to be avoided and opportunities to be seized.

“The next two years must not be about game-playing, grandstanding or political posturing.”

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie also criticised the Tories, saying: “The Tories divided the country to heal the divisions in their own party.”

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