Brexit Deeply Damaging To Scotland, FM Warns

23 August 2016, 16:43 | Updated: 23 August 2016, 16:45

The argument that the UK offers a safe harbour for Scotland's economy is bust after the Brexit vote and another independence referendum remains highly likely, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Scotland's First Minister outlined projections that Brexit will cost the Scottish economy up to £11.2 billion each year.

Leaving the European Union will also hit tax revenues by up to £3.7 billion annually, according to Scottish Government analysis.

Speaking at a press conference in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: "The old argument that the UK somehow offers financial security for Scotland no longer holds water.

"Brexit will be deeply damaging to Scotland's economy and to our finances.''

She added: "I said the morning after the referendum that we would pursue all options, including the option of independence to achieve this, and that remains the case.

"If it turns out simply not to be possible to protect Scotland's interest through the UK, it must be open to the Scottish people to consider afresh, and in this very different context, the question of independence.

"However, I am very clear that we will enter these UK discussions in good faith.''

She confirmed another independence referendum remains "highly likely''.

She said: "I'm not going to set a time-frame right now when the time-frame for the work around Article 50 at the UK end is so uncertain. I think it would be a foolish thing for me to do that.

"While I am absolutely serious here about trying to examine and exhaust all options, I recognise - and recognised the morning after the referendum - that it may be impossible to protect Scotland's interest in a UK context, but it doesn't mean that I am not going to try.

"If we get to that position - and what I said the morning after the referendum I stick to - I think that's highly likely.

"Then it would be for me to put that position to the Scottish Parliament to make that decision, and ultimately for the people of Scotland to make that decision.''

politicians have accused the Scottish Government of grandstanding over Brexit to deflect attention from revenue figures due out on Wednesday.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed she expects the latest Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) publication to show a deficit as the economy struggles with low oil prices.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused Ms Sturgeon of bringing GERS forward from its usual publication in March to prevent bad news ahead of the council elections in May.

Ms Sturgeon said: "What has changed from the last GERS publication is the context, the fact that we now face the prospect of being taken out of the EU.

"What the publication today shows very clearly is that if we are removed from the EU, that challenge gets harder and the situation gets worse.

"So Scotland faces a choice, do we allow that situation to become harder by being taken out of the EU, or do we seek ways of protecting our EU membership so that we can continue in that context to face up to that challenge?

"What I think the Brexit vote absolutely means is that the argument that some have used in the past when GERS has been published - that the UK is somehow a safe harbour for Scotland - is no longer true.''

Ms Sturgeon stressed there are "a number of caveats that you have to attach to the GERS publication'' in projecting an independent Scotland's economy.

"It is not a statement of an independent Scotland's opening position, because that would be influenced by a range of things like defence spending and negotiations around debt interest that would affect that,'' she said.

"It is also a statement of Scotland's economy under the status quo, not a reflection of how Scotland's economy would perform under independence.''

She added: "I don't know anybody, apart from folk like (Vote Leave campaigner) Boris Johnson, who has seriously said Brexit is not going to have a seriously bad impact on our economy.

"It's not a question of if - it's a question of how much.

"That is the point that I am making. Those who have previously argued that the UK somehow gives financial security and certainty to Scotland - that argument is bust, frankly.

"We know that Brexit, if we don't find a way of protecting our relationship with EU and particularly our membership of the single market, then Brexit will deliver a significant hit to our economy and our public finances and that is the reality.''