Brexit deal can include special terms for Scotland, insists Holyrood minister

There is no reason why Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal cannot include special arrangements for Scotland, Holyrood’s Constitutional Relations Secretary has insisted.

Mike Russell said that if a differential agreement can be struck for Northern Ireland, then something similar should also be put in place for Scotland.

Such a set-up would to a “small degree” mitigate the damage caused by the “disastrous” agreement the Conservatives have struck with Brussels, he said.

The Prime Minister has insisted the deal is the “best that could be negotiated”, saying it is a choice between it and “going back to square one with more division, more uncertainty and a failure to deliver on the referendum”.

But within 12 hours of her making that statement outside Downing Street, her Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had quit – warning the arrangements pose a “very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom” because of provisions for Northern Ireland.

Mr Russell accepted there are special circumstances for Northern Ireland, which like Scotland voted against Brexit in the 2016 referendum.

But he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Scotland should also have an arrangement which recognises that Scotland voted comprehensively against leaving the EU.

“The severe damage that will be done to Scotland… can in a small degree be mitigated by the type of arrangement that’s being talked about for Northern Ireland.

“There is absolutely no reason why that cannot be done, none whatsoever.”

SNP MPs at Westminster will not back the Brexit deal as it stands, he said, adding that the party’s leaders there are now working with other opposition politicians to see if changes can be made.

“Together we can get something far, far better than this extraordinary bourach which we are now faced with, which would be disastrous,” Mr Russell said.

“What we are looking at is something in Scottish terms that is disastrous, even one detail of it, which would be ending freedom of movement will be disastrous for almost every sector in Scotland.”

But Scottish Tory MP Andrew Bowie said: “The deal that we have is not a bad deal.

“It’s a deal that maintains the integrity of the United Kingdom single market whilst maintaining the benefits of a close relationship with the European Union.”

The West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP insisted the proposed arrangements would “absolutely” benefit Scotland.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “It’s a deal which avoids a hard border in Northern Ireland, avoids a border down the Irish Sea, it’s given us a comprehensive free trade area with zero tariffs and fees between the UK and Europe, it’s a comprehensive agreement on services, commits to financial stability, a digital agreement on cross border data flows, and also crucially a deal which guarantees EU nationals rights in the UK and UK nationals rights in the EU.

“These are all things the SNP and the Labour Party claimed we could not get as part of an agreement with the European Union, and these are all things that have been achieved.”

.@DavidMundellDCT talking about today’s Cabinet agreement on the EU Exit deal.

— Secretary of State for Scotland (@ScotSecofState) November 14, 2018

With Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Secretary David Mundell both having threatened to quit if Brexit undermines the “integrity of the UK”, Labour’s Lesley Laird claimed Mrs May appears to have “simply ignored them”.

Junior Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara, who also quit the Government over the deal, raised the same concerns as Mr Raab in his resignation letter.

Ms Laird, the shadow Scottish secretary, said: “It is farcical that the Brexit Secretary has resigned because the Prime Minister’s deal undermines the integrity of the UK, while the Scottish Tories stay silent. So much for standing up for Scotland’s place in the UK.

“If David Mundell had a back bone then he would resign with immediate effect.”