Brexit: Why is the Scottish Parliament being recalled and how will Brexit affect Scotland’s trade?

Holyrood has been recalled to debate the UK’s trade deal with the EU

Nicola Sturgeon has now made her case for another Scottish Independence referendum - following the Brexit deal (Picture: Getty images)
Nicola Sturgeon has now made her case for another Scottish Independence referendum - following the Brexit deal (Picture: Getty images)

When Boris Johnson said “the deal is done” on Christmas Eve, it may have been presumed that politicians who had called on the Prime Minister to deliver a Brexit deal would have rejoiced.

However, it may have been one Christmas gift Scots did not ask for – as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has decided to vote against the deal.

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So, will the deal allow for trading with the EU which seeks to support Scottish business and travel, or will Brexit prove disastrous for Scottish businesses? This is what we know so far.

What will the impact be on Scotland’s trade?

One of the most talked about and anticipated issues raised for Scotland exiting the EU was the outcome for fishermen.

As Johnson announced the deal on 24 December, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to proclaim it “a bad deal for fishing.” On 31 December 2020, the UK - including Scotland - will leave the common fisheries policy (CFP).

Following this, there will be a five year period, during which the UK will slowly take back 25 per cent of UK waters - less than the 35 per cent UK’s Brexit negotiators originally planned.

While Ms Sturgeon claimed the extent of Boris Johnson’s “broken promises” would become apparent over the next few years, Westminster’s Scotland secretary, Alister Jack called the deal “great news for Scotland’s businesses.”

He also suggested famous Scottish products, such as whisky, Arbroath smokies and Orkney cheddar, would be protected by striking the deal.

While Scottish waters and produce will inevitably feel some impact (even if short term) caused by Brexit trade changes, Westminster has now promised a £100 million package to support any upset felt by businesses.

However, this was no consolation for SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, who described the Brexit deal as “an "unforgivable act of economic vandalism and gross stupidity.”

He added, "This is a very bad deal for Scotland, which will terminate our membership of the EU, rip us out of the world's largest single market and customs union, end our freedom of movement rights, and impose mountains of red tape, added costs and barriers to trade for Scottish businesses.”

It is expected that SNP MPs will vote against the deal when it comes before the House of Commons in the next few days.

Labour is largely thought to vote in favour, to ensure legal clarity when Britain’s transition period out of the EU ends on New Years Eve.

What has Nicola Sturgeon said about the deal?

Ms Sturgeon initially reacted to the deal by tweeting on 24 December, “Before the spin starts, it’s worth remembering that Brexit is happening against Scotland’s will. And there is no deal that will ever make up for what Brexit takes away from us.

“It’s time to chart our own future as an independent, European nation.”

She shared her views further on 26 December, in a statement shared on the SNP website.

The First Minister wrote, “The Tories have laid bare again that they do not see the UK as a partnership of equals, but as a system of government where Westminster is supreme.

A government that people in Scotland didn’t vote for has decided to make us poorer.

“Indeed, some experts say the economic damage of Brexit will be substantially greater in the long-term than the damage from Covid.

“It is yet another example of Tory governments taking Scotland in the wrong direction against our will.”

However, prior to the deal being struck, the leader of the SNP called on an extension to the Brexit negotiations in order to come to a comprehensive agreement which would ensure Britain did not exit the EU without a deal.

She now feels the deal struck offers a tougher Brexit than that which was sold to British people before the EU referendum in 2016.

In her statement, she added, “This is a far harder Brexit that could have been imagined when the EU referendum took place.”

Why is the Scottish Parliament being recalled?

The Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh, has announced that the Scottish Parliament will be recalled at 2pm on Wednesday 30 December, in order to debate the UK’s deal with the EU.

This is only the fourth time since devolution that the parliament has been recalled. Previous instances included the death of former First Minister Donald Dewar in October 2000, the death of the Queen Mother in 2002, and the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in 2001.

The business bulletin was updated for the Scottish Parliament on 27 December, in order to inform MSPs and members of the public about the recall.

Parliament was not expected to sit again until Tuesday 12 January 2021. However, the presiding officer’s announcement explained the recall was in order to allow MSPs from all parties “to consider a trade and co-operation agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.”

Will there be another Scottish Independence referendum?

At the beginning of 2020, when the UK officially announced its departure from the EU, the First Minister insisted that this called for a second Scottish independence referendum as Scotland was being taken out of the EU against its will.

This language was reiterated again on 24 December by the SNP and, once again, in Ms Sturgeon’s Boxing Day statement.

The Conservative government in Westminster has previously insisted that there will be no more independence referendums under Conservative UK leadership, as Scotland needs Westminster’s approval to hold a referendum.

However, it is widely believed that another independence referendum will be a manifesto promise of the SNP as the party gears up to campaign for the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections. If it achieves a landslide victory then another referendum may be on the cards in the near future.

It is also widely expected that Nicola Sturgeon would re-enter Scotland into the EU as an independent nation if Scotland became independent.