Up to £3bn could be wiped from Scotland’s economy if the UK fails to extend the Brexit transition period, a new Scottish Government report suggests.
The paper warns if the transition period ends as scheduled on December 31, GDP in Scotland could be reduced by between £1.1bn and £1.8bn over the next two years.
It states that would be “equivalent to a cumulative loss of economic activity of between nearly £2bn and £3bn over those two years”.
The report was published as the Scottish constitutional relations secretary Michael Russell said the country is facing a “catastrophic economic recession” due to Covid-19.
He added it could “turn out to be the worst in 300 years”.
A failure to extend the transition period to allow businesses time to recover from the impact of the pandemic could be the “final straw” for many firms, Russell said.
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser branded the report and statement from the minister as “just another of the endless series of doleful pronouncements from the SNP government on Brexit”.
The Conservative constitution spokesman said: “A further delay will achieve nothing but deliver years more of access to our fishing waters for the other EU nations, while our fishing communities are desperate to seize the sea of opportunity that awaits us.”
Russell said with global economies “declining fast” following Covid-19, “we must do everything we can to give businesses the best support for recovery”.
In a statement to MSPs, he said: “Ending the EU withdrawal transition period at the end of this year would subject Scotland and the UK as a whole to an entirely unnecessary second economic and social shock on top of the Covid-19 crisis.
“More jobs would be lost, living standards would be bit and essential markets and opportunities for recovery would be damaged.
“For many businesses which manage to survive the Covid-19 crisis this second Brexit shock would be the final straw.
He said it is now “essential the UK indicate they will seek the extension of the transition period of up to two years which is provided for in the withdrawal agreement”.
Russell added: “To refuse to seek that extension, which the EU hasindicated would be readily granted, is a reckless act which will destroy thousands of jobs, undermine an already fragile economy and devastate communities across Scotland at a time when we are most vulnerable.”
He spoke after the Scottish Government paper said the combined impact of a failure to extend the transition period along with the coronavirus crisis “could result in widespread business closures and job losses over and above those resulting from Covid-19 alone”.
It added: “The case for extending the transitional period for a further two years is informed by the very real and inevitable damage to our economy, to our communities and to our citizens that – as evidenced in this paper – will result if the UK Government continues to pursue a policy of ending the transitional arrangements with the EU regardless of the consequences.”
Russell said: “Pragmatically the issue is clear, there must be an extension to allow people and businesses in Scotland to continue to benefit from most aspects of EU membership while they attempt to recover from the current crisis.”
Scotland Office minister David Duguid said: “At the end of year when the transition period ends, we will have control over our own laws and trade, and will become an independent coastal state.
“We will be able to design our own rules to suit the best interests of Scottish businesses and industries, and our vital fishing industry will be strengthened.
“Extending the transition period would simply prolong the negotiations and increase uncertainty for business.
“It would bind us into future EU legislation without us having any say in designing it but still having to foot the bill as we would still have to make payments into the EU budget.”