Scotland did not vote to be dragged out of the EU like this - Michael Russell

The current course being taken to Brexit by the UK Government is reckless brinkmanship and the only possible outcome is bad.

Sunday, 18th October 2020, 7:00 am
Michael Russell says the Internal Market Bill must now be dropped
Michael Russell says the Internal Market Bill must now be dropped

The Prime Minister has told the UK, and Scotland, that a calamitous ‘no-deal’ Brexit is not only still on the table, but should now be “embraced” with “high hearts”.

It is beyond belief that in the midst of a global pandemic and deep recession that this is being considered in any way, let alone such an irresponsible one.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

All this just adds the damage and disruption of Brexit to the individual and community distress of Covid-19.

Despite the wishes of the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland, the UK Government has adopted ever more hard-line positions over the last four long years

It is clear the UK Government is ready and willing to inflict either a ‘no-deal’ or, nearly as bad, a “low deal” Brexit on Scotland.

Either will bring untold disruption, chaos and delay and make some Scottish exports, such as beef and lamb, almost unviable with, in the worst case, tariffs in the region of 50 per cent to 70 per cent.

Another lamentable aspect of Brexit will be the impact it will have on food standards.

In our view it is vitally important that any deal should not only uphold, but build upon Scotland’s strong reputation of high quality food.

But there are growing and legitimate concerns in two areas.

First, Scottish companies will find it harder and more costly to export the same excellent products to the same markets in the EU, compared with before.

The second is prompted by the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill, which the Scottish Parliament has overwhelmingly rejected.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) research published this week shows that people are anxious about a reduction in food quality and standards after Brexit, including the potential import of food such as chlorinated chicken from the US.

The Internal Market Bill, if passed by Westminster, would actually require Scotland to accept lower quality food if it has been allowed elsewhere in the UK, regardless of any laws passed by Holyrood or demanded by the people of Scotland.

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution issued an unprecedented critique of the Bill on Friday, effectively destroying its contents, intentions and rationale.

The report underlines why the Bill should be now dropped: an action long overdue.

Scotland did not vote for any of this.

The path we are being forced to take drags us out of the EU, out of the Single Market, out of the Customs Union and having to accept the end of freedom of movement.

And now with a worst-case scenario unfolding - a ‘no-deal’ threatening to bring unprecedented disruption to our society and economy.

The Prime Minister has made it clear he is not interested in the views of the Scottish Government, or any of the devolved governments.

We will do everything we can to mitigate against the consequences of the UK Government’s actions, but we cannot avert every negative outcome.

The Scottish Government’s view is clear: the best future for Scotland is to become an independent country.

That will mean that instead of our views being ignored, Scotland will be an equal partner with our closest friends whether they be in London or Lisbon, Peterborough or Paris.

Michael Russell is Scottish Government Constitution Secretary