Rejecting Scottish Brexit deal 'not acceptable', says Sturgeon

First Minister hits back after chancellor dismisses possibility of separate arrangements.

Nicola Sturgeon: Spoke at European Greens conference (file pic). <strong>© HEMEDIA / SWNS Group</strong>
Nicola Sturgeon: Spoke at European Greens conference (file pic). © HEMEDIA / SWNS Group

Nicola Sturgeon has hit back at “arrogant dismissals” of a separate Brexit deal for Scotland after it was ruled out by chancellor Philip Hammond.

The First Minister said the message that Scotland would not be listened to was “not acceptable”.

During a visit to Edinburgh on Thursday, Mr Hammond said special arrangements for Scotland on immigration and trade are “not a realistic prospect”.

The Scottish Government later said that after meeting with Ms Sturgeon, the chancellor had promised to “fully consider” its proposals to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.

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The First Minister is due to publish options in the next few weeks focused on keeping Scotland in the European single market, even if the UK leaves.

Speaking at the European Green Party conference in Glasgow on Friday, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t pretend that that will be easy. Coming up with a special arrangement for Scotland will be complex and not straightforward, but it is absolutely essential if there is any respect for Scotland’s voice on the part of the UK Government that they listen to the proposals we put forward.

“Arrogant dismissals of different options for Scotland as we’ve heard in the last few days simply send a message that Scotland’s voice does not matter and that is not acceptable.

“If that is the message of the UK Government, that no matter what Scotland thinks or wants or votes for that we simply have to accept whatever hard Brexit – with all the damage to our economy, our society, our culture, our place in the world that that will do – then it is hardly surprising that the question of Scottish independence arises again.

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“So we are also in Scotland making preparations that would enable us to hold another independence referendum if independence does become the only way to make sure our voice is heard, to make sure we have a say in the direction that we want our country, our economy, and our society to take.”

Ms Sturgeon was a keynote speaker at the conference, which brought together representatives of Green parties from across Europe.

In a direct appeal to delegates, she said: “As we face up to these challenges it is hugely important that other EU countries understand our position.

“We know that the rest of the EU will negotiate with the UK Government, but it is important to us that we get that message across, that Scotland wants to remain part of the European family.

“And we’ve found a lot of sympathy for Scotland’s position across the European Union. Ironically I often find a far more receptive audience elsewhere in the EU than I do from politicians in London, but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised about that.

“I only have to look around this room right now to see that Scotland has friends across Europe who want to help us. So my plea today to you is that when you return home, do so with a clear message.

“Tell your fellow citizens that Scotland believes in European co-operation as a vehicle for positive change, not just in Europe but right around the world.

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“The European Union, despite its faults, has been the backdrop to decades of peace for its citizens. Tell your neighbours and you friends that the UK Government does not speak for Scotland in these matters.

“Tell them that the insults thrown at other governments and the appalling xenophobic language aimed at their citizens is not in Scotland’s name.

“But most importantly please tell your fellow countrymen and women this, Scotland wants to stay in the European family. We want to be and we are determined to remain an open, outward looking, internationalist country. That’s the Scotland that you should take home with you in your hearts.”

Referring to Scottish Greens co-conveners Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman, Ms Sturgeon added: “I hope that when you come back to Glasgow, hopefully in the not too distant future, Patrick and Maggie and I will welcome you to this city that then will be a city in an independent Scotland that is a member of the European Union.”

Mr Harvie said: “The UK Government, so far at least, appears unwilling to respect Scotland’s position and make any appropriate arrangements to reflect how people here voted.

“Even those within the UK Government who speak of access to the single market mean only access for businesses, not for people. For us, freedom of movement is an essential, and integral, part of the single market and cannot be negotiated away.

“This democratic deficit is particularly important given the constitutional history of Scotland, which understands that sovereignty lies with the people. So for us, there is huge value in our continued membership of the Green family, and in your presence here to reaffirm that place.

“As Greens, we have our differences with the SNP Government in Scotland. From time to time, we’ll continue to disagree, hopefully in a constructive spirit, without opportunism.

“But on this critical challenge, to safeguard Scotland’s place in Europe, we are in strong agreement.

“As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made the case both here at home and around Europe, for Scotland’s democratic decision to be respected, for our rights within Europe to be protected, for our voices to be heard.

“In this task, the Scottish Greens offer our support.”


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