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SNP Brexit Minister suggests EU more important than UK to Scottish firms

Simon Johnson , Scottish Political Editor
Mike Russell, the SNP's Brexit Minister
Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit Minister was has been  castigated for suggesting the EU single market is more important to Scottish companies than trade with England ahead of Theresa May setting out her hopes of creating a “more united” UK.
Mike Russell warned the Prime Minister is planning to take Scotland out of a single market “eight times bigger than the UK’s alone” – a claim that refers to the EU’s larger population but not the scale of Scottish goods and services exported there.
The Conservatives accused the SNP of trying to paint a picture of “economic Armageddon” when Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK is worth more than four times as much as that with the Continent.
The most recent official figures showed Scotland exports £48.5 billion of goods to the rest of the UK every year compared to £11.6 billion to the EU. Updated statistics will be published next week showing the huge disparity in Scottish exports to the UK and the Continent.
Mr Russell also today stepped up the SNP’s renewed push for independence by warning that the Conservatives “will think they can get away with anything” if, as expected, Mrs May confirms today that the UK is leaving the EU single market and customs union. 
The Prime Minister will refer to Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a second independence referendum by stating that she wants the United Kingdom to emerge from Brexit “stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before.”
Theresa May will set out her hopes of creating a more united UKTheresa May will set out her hopes of creating a more united UK Credit:  Isopix/REX/Shutterstock
Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, also warned that a separate Scotland faces being left outside of both the EU and the UK if the Nationalists won a second referendum.
A major Brexit debate is being staged at Holyrood this afternoon and Mr Russell called for MSPs to unite around a Scottish Government motion supporting a controversial blueprint unveiled by Ms Sturgeon that claims Scotland could stay in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves.
It also argued that independence should not be ruled out. Referring to the relative populations of the EU and the UK, he said: “The threat of a Tory hard Brexit, taking us out of a single market eight times bigger than the UK’s alone, is getting bigger by the day. 
“The Tories now seem to think they can they can do what they want and Scotland will simply accept it – and if they get away with dragging us out of the EU and Single Market then they will think they can get away with anything.”
He said the sharp decline in the value of the pound was a sign of the “disastrous economic consequences” of a hard Brexit and repeated his claim that Ms Sturgeon’s blueprint represented a “compromise” that Mrs May was duty bound to consider carefully.
The proposal involved the devolution of nearly every power to Holyrood, including immigration, and the creation of a separate business regime from the rest of the UK.
Experts have warned this would create a hard economic border with England and the Spanish government has already ruled out a separate deal for Scotland, thereby appearing to kill off the plan as all other 27 EU member states would have to agree.
Dean Lockhart, the Scottish Tories’ Shadow Economy Minister, said: “Listening to the SNP, you would be forgiven for thinking that the EU accounted for the majority of our trade and that leaving it will result in economic Armageddon.
“That is simply not the case, as our trade with the UK is worth over four times more than our trade with the rest of the EU.” He urged SNP ministers to work with their UK counterparts “to get the best Brexit deal for everyone.”
Kezia Dugdale has warned Scotland risks being outside the UK and EUKezia Dugdale has warned Scotland risks being outside the UK and EU Credit: James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock
Ms Dugdale used a speech to the David Hume Institute yesterday to argue that an independence referendum would now have to happen between January 2018 and March 2019, following Ms Sturgeon’s disclosure that one will not be held this year.
The Scottish Labour leader said: “A referendum after that date would mean potentially leaving Scotland outside of the EU and outside of the UK - a set of circumstances that would see us lose the economic relationship with both our largest trading partners.”
She also argued that Scotland could have a different immigration policy following Brexit despite warnings this would mean the creation of border controls with England.
Her speech came after the principal of one of Scotland’s most eminent universities warned Theresa May’s Government yesterday that ignoring expert opinion on Brexit would be an act of "economic self-sabotage".
Professor Anton Muscatelli, the head of the University of Glasgow, argued that those with knowledge and expertise about the EU should not be side-lined during the UK’s negotiations with the EU “in a quest for political or ideological purity.”
SNP Brexit Minister suggests EU more important than UK to Scottish firms Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 10:31 PM Rating: 5

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