Speech at IoD annual convention in London.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described membership of the single market as the "obvious consensus position" among leave and remain voters in the EU referendum - and said that the UK-wide result was not a mandate for a hard Brexit.
The First Minister was reiterating the benefits of staying in the single market to 2,000 business leaders at the Institute of Directors’ Annual Convention in the Royal Albert Hall.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“EU membership is now part of Scotland’s sense of itself. We see ourselves as an open, internationalist country. We value the contribution made by EU citizens across Scotland. We like the fundamental principle behind the European Union – of independent nations co-operating for a common good.
“My starting point is to do everything I can to retain the benefits of EU membership, and to preserve as best I can Scotland’s relationship with the Europe.
“We are looking to see if there are ways in which the benefits of single market membership could be retained by Scotland even if they are discarded by the rest of the UK. We all need to think creatively and negotiate constructively. In these circumstances, no option can be off the table for Scotland.
“I have a very clear view of the UK approach that I would like to see. I believe that the UK should seek to retain full membership of the single market. We know that some parts of that - such as retaining freedom of movement - would not satisfy everyone. Although immigration brings significant economic benefits, those benefits aren’t felt by everyone. So it will become even more important to ensure that the economy works more effectively for people who are currently unemployed, or on low wages.
“But I believe that there is a strong democratic justification for retaining our single market membership. After all, 48% of the electorate voted to remain in the EU. So did two of the four nations of the UK. And people who voted to leave were repeatedly told that leaving the EU did not necessarily require leaving the single market. So I don’t believe there is a clear mandate for what is generally known as a hard Brexit. Single market membership seems to us to be the obvious consensus position that we should try to work towards.
“And that would in my view be the least damaging outcome for individuals, communities and businesses across the whole of the UK.
“Many people in the UK look at the political debate in America now - where one candidate is talking about imposing significant tariffs on imported goods - and we criticise that debate. So it seems almost unbelievable that we’re now in a position where barriers and tariffs with our nearest neighbours could become part of our daily business life.
“I look forward to making common cause with many businesses and voices across the UK. We will seek to work with others of like mind because in doing so, we will be working in the interests of individuals, businesses and communities – not just in Scotland, but across all the nations of these islands.”
The full speech is available at: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/Speeches-Briefings/Institute-of-Directors-Annual-Convention-2bcb.aspx