Mike Russell criticises Westminster over 'chaotic, blind Brexit'

18 September 2018, 07:16

Holyrood

Mike Russell has insisted Westminster is "incapable" of working in Scotland's interests as he warned of the growing risk that the UK will be forced into a "chaotic, blind Brexit".

The Scottish Constitution Secretary accused Prime Minister Theresa May of "misleading" voters on the prospects for her Chequers plan, claiming EU leaders have already dismissed the UK Government's proposals.

Four years after Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom, he claimed politicians south of the border had failed to meet their pledge that Scotland would be an "equal partner" if it stayed in the Union.

Scots rejected independence by 45% to 55% in September 2014, with the country then going on to vote in favour of the UK remaining part of the EU.

However, votes in England and Wales for Brexit meant the country as a whole opted to leave in the 2016 referendum.

Mrs May took charge of the UK's negotiations shortly after that, with talks between the PM and European leaders continuing in Salzburg this week.

Mr Russell said the Prime Minister must use that meeting to "rule out both a 'blind' and a no-deal Brexit".

Speaking ahead of an address to business leaders and academics in Edinburgh, Mr Russell said: "It is misleading and the height of arrogance for the Prime Minister to say the only alternative to no-deal is the Tories' flawed and unworkable Chequers plan, which even they don't agree on.

"The EU has been clear that the key economic planks of the Chequers plan are not acceptable. That means there's a growing danger that we are heading for a chaotic, blind Brexit in which Scotland is dragged out of the EU with key questions on trade and the future relationship undecided and in the hands of hard-line anti-Europeans.

"Four years ago today, the people of Scotland voted on our nation's future and were then told we were to be treated as equal partners in the UK - absolutely nothing that has happened since has lived up to that pledge, with Brexit making it clearer by the day that Westminster is incapable of working in Scotland's national interests."

Mr Russell added: "The Scottish Government has published a detailed plan to keep both Scotland and the UK in the customs union and single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK market alone.

"Our plans would protect jobs and living standards. So, instead of arrogantly dismissing those proposals, the Prime Minister should be putting them on the table this week."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "We are working hard to secure a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland."