Scotland's Place in Europe

Scotland’s Place in Europe sets out the Scottish Government’s position following the result of the EU Referendum.

Chapter Five: Conclusion

190. The Scottish Government believes the best option for Scotland is to be an independent member of the EU. The people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU on 23 June. Moreover, we concur with those who believe that the Leave prospectus put forward during the referendum was deeply flawed and that the lack of preparation for leaving by those responsible for that campaign remains a deeply damaging aspect of the current constitutional crisis.

191. The current situation is not of our making - it has been caused by the original flawed decision to hold the EU referendum and the subsequent majority for Leave in England and Wales. However, in line with our commitments, we have explored all options to find out whether Scotland's national interest and relationship with Europe can be protected within the UK, and to mobilise opinion to this cause.

192. The proposals in this paper represent a significant compromise on behalf of the Scottish Government, but we make them in line with the commitment we gave to explore all options and build as much consensus as possible. We also believe that, short of continuing UK membership of the EU or independence within the EU for Scotland, these proposals are the best way to protect Scotland's interests. We believe that the UK should remain members of the Single Market or should agree that it will support Scotland in doing so - in line with its previous commitments on the nature of the UK as a "partnership" and its agreement to develop a UK approach to negotiations.

193. This paper has set out the vision of the Scottish Government in terms of the best outcome from Brexit for the whole of the UK - continued membership of the European Single Market. We have presented the evidence of the negative impact of any other approach on the economic and social prosperity of Scotland and, by extension, the UK as a whole.

194. We have set out a clear proposition for how a differentiated position could work - in the event that the UK Government decides to leave the single market - drawing on examples from a range of countries and scenarios which demonstrate that differentiated relationships work elsewhere. This would allow Scotland, as part of the UK, to remain within the European Single Market, and would be achievable through partnership working with UK Government and European partners.

195. The proposal set out in this paper also meets the majority of the tests set out by the First Minister in her speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, with some compromises on the level of influence for Scotland when compared to that currently enjoyed by the UK:

a) Economic interests - the proposal we have presented for differentiation would secure continued membership of the single market for Scotland.

b) Solidarity - Scotland would be able to make policy choices beyond those required by single market membership to implement European policy and work collectively with European partners to tackle significant challenges such as terrorism and climate change.

c) Social protection - continued membership of the European Single Market and participation in horizontal and flanking policies would ensure that Scotland maintained the standards of social protection and would be able to track future policy developments.

d) Democratic interests - a differentiated position would ensure that Scotland's distinctive voice is heard, particularly in our future relationship with the EU and single market, and our wishes respected.

e) Influence - through EFTA membership and participation in the single market through the EEA agreement Scotland would be able to achieve some influence over the development of EU policy relevant to the single market, although we accept this is not to the same extent as EU membership.

196. The UK Government has made firm commitments to the people of Scotland. The Prime Minister says the UK is a partnership of equals, that the Scottish Government will be fully engaged in the Brexit process, and that Article 50 will not be triggered until there are agreed UK objectives for negotiations.

197. The propositions set out in this paper would require the full support and participation of the UK Government. We intend to engage in discussions with the UK Government to further explore a differentiated solution which ensures continued European Single Market membership. Such a solution would need to be included as an integral element in the UK Government's negotiations with our European partners (including EFTA members) once the Article 50 procedure has been triggered. Central to our discussions with the UK Government would be an understanding of, and an agreement around, the issues that need to be resolved between the Scottish and UK Governments before we could seek agreement with our European partners. We believe the technical challenges can be met if there is political will on all sides to explore solutions.

198. However, we are clear that realising such a position would be a shared endeavour with the UK Government and our European partners to deliver a compromise which respected both the democratically expressed of the Scottish and UK Governments and the constitution of the UK. Such a solution would require close and ongoing co-operation with the UK Government in a range of areas.

199. We have also set out how leaving the EU will fundamentally affect the constitutional arrangements of the UK. Policy for devolved functions currently subject to EU law will be the responsibility of Scottish Parliament. A significant increase in devolution is required to protect Scotland's key interests, including delivering any differentiated arrangement with the EU. A consequence of leaving the EU cannot and must not be that power is further concentrated in the UK Government and at Westminster; there needs to be a fundamental realignment of responsibilities to ensure that the interests of the nations across these islands are protected, and that there is a genuine partnership of equals in the governance of the UK.

200. We therefore call upon the UK Government to confirm that their approach to negotiations with the European Union will set out a framework for their future relationship with the EU, and remaining inside the single market will be central to that approach. If this is not included, the Scottish Government seeks agreement from the UK Government that a differentiated option for Scotland that will allow Scotland to remain inside the EU single market, will be pursued in those negotiations. We look forward to discussing urgently with the UK Government how Scotland's interests will be protected and how this is best delivered, on the basis of the propositions set out in this paper.

201. We find ourselves in an unprecedented position. It is not of our making. It threatens our economy and our society and is incompatible with the kind of country we are now and want to be in future. The situation we find ourselves in should transcend party politics and demands creative leadership on behalf of the Scottish people to protect our national interests. We are taking that step and demonstrating that leadership. We look to the UK Government to match these efforts and to work with us to move forward.


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