Brexit: Michael Russell delivers speech on impact on Scotland
Negotiators are continuing to talk in Brussels while Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are in close contact to try to resolve remaining difficulties. Both sides led by Lord Frost and Michel Barnier are trying to secure a deal before the current EU withdrawal transition period ends on December 31 with a deal set to be secured in the next 24 hours.
However, the SNP have been opposed to the UK leaving the EU and have vowed to rejoin the bloc as soon as possible if they achieve independence in a second referendum.
The party, which leads the Scottish Government, have been at loggerheads with the UK Government and Boris Johnson claiming Scotland has been taken out of Scotland “against its will”.
Fishing remains a key sticking point in the negotiations and a hot topic between Edinburgh and Holyrood, especially after the passing of the UK Fisheries Bill which will manage UK fish stocks after the end of the transition period.
Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing stressed Brexit would cause the loss of the “biggest seafood markets in the EU and the wider damage that it will cause to our coastal communities”.
Michael Russell updated on Brexit today
Boris Johnson has disargeed with Nicola Sturgeon’s approach to Brexit
He said: “We continue to believe that the best future for Scotland is as an independent nation in the European Union.”
But speaking in Holyrood this afternoon, Constitution Secretary Michael Russell claimed Scotland was in the “realm of the unbelievable” with Brexit.
Mr Russell hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson for refusing to extend the transition period and claimed: “The UK Government’s refusal to extend transition – despite all the pleas – was utterly foolish, reckless, arrogant and very damaging.”
Mr Russell claimed even if the UK was to secure a basic trade deal with the EU, he stressed Scottish GDP is estimated to be 6.1 percent lower by 2030 compared to continued EU membership.
Fisheries remain a key sticking point of the talks
He made clear: “This equates to a cost to each person in Scotland of an equivalent to £1,600.
“We will also redouble our efforts to make sure all our neighbours – all our neighbours – understand that we aspire to a better future and are working to achieve it .”
A Senior Scottish Government source said this evening Scotland’s interests would “always be stood up for.”
They said: “We liaise closely with Brussels and will continue to do so after the end of the transition period.”
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It comes after Scotland’s new post-Brexit laws were passed allowing Scotland to keep pace with EU legislation.
The legislation, backed by 90 MSPs to 21 against, will allow SNP ministers to keep some Scottish laws at pace with EU rules after Brexit especially surrounding regulatory and environmental standards.
The UK Withdrawal from the EU (Continuity) Bill also sets up a new watchdog called Environmental Standards Scotland.
Dean Lockhart, MSP Scottish Conservatives Constitution spokesperson claimed the SNP was against “free trade”, a comment which was rebuffed by Mr Russell.
Michael Rusell in Holyrood today
He added: “If we reach a trade deal before the end of this month, we will have access to the single market.
“But the question is today whether the SNP will support such a trade deal because in recent weeks we have heard conflicting answers from the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary on whether they will support a free trade deal with the EU.
“That’s not surprising because we know deep down the SNP is against free trade having failed to support every single trade deal in the last 15 years.”
On the recent EU legislation, Mr Lockhart said the legislation would turn the Scottish Parliament into “passive rule takers” making clear they would have to submit to Brussels.
Holyrood passed the EU bill yesterday
He said: “The bill is an exceptional piece of legislation. It gives the Scottish ministers exceptional powers to keep pace with EU legislation over a period of a decade.
“Let us be clear: we are talking about laws made by a supranational body of which we will no longer be a member and laws in relation to which we will have had no formal input.”
Mr Lockhart warned the passing of the legislation would mean SNP ministers being able to take actions in Brussels without scrutiny.
He said: “It will be possible for significant changes of policy and significant changes to Scots law to be introduced by the Scottish ministers without any meaningful parliamentary or stakeholder scrutiny.”