‘#LeaveALightOn’: Scottish Government to signal support for EU to mark Brexit day

Alasdair Clark

The UK officially leaving the European Union tomorrow [31 January] was described as “sad and regrettable” by Mike Russell 

  • Scottish Brexit secretary warns countdown to possible no-deal begins again at moment UK leaves EU
  • Nicola Sturgeon to write open letter as part of activities to show Scotland’s willingness to Remain
  • No trust without “mutual recognition of mandates”, Mike Russell tells MSPs

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT will signal Scotland’s support for the European Union on Friday, with the UK due to officially leave at 11pm despite Scots voting to Remain. 

Scottish Government ministers, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, will take part in a series of activities to signal their desire to remain close to the EU as Brexit takes effect.

Updating the Scottish Parliament ahead of Brexit day, the Scottish Government’s Brexit secretary Mike Russell MSP said the withdrawal would be a “profound change”. 

Russell told MSPs: “No one should be lulled into a false of security by that initial sameness, because at 11:01 pm the clock will start again – ticking inexorably down to the end of this year when the UK Government insist the transition period must end, and we will feel the full impact of what is the most damaging change to our constitutional settlement in generations.

Read more: Beyond the Noise: Brexit day and beyond – what does it mean for indy?

“And it will be ticking down once again to no-deal, or something very similar, with all the extra hardship which will entail.”

The minister also expressed frustration at the exclusion of devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from discussions over the UK’s negotiating position. 

This is despite commitments from the UK Government to involve devolved government through a Joint Ministerial Committee [JMCEN], which Russell attends on behalf of the Scottish Government. 

Russell went on: “We will continue, inside and outside the formal structures, to do everything we can minimise the profound damage that Brexit will inevitably cause. 

“That is why I continue to attend increasingly difficult meetings of the JMCEN. It is vital that Scotland’s core interests are spoken for and protected. 

“It is a fact that the JMCEN agreed jointly by heads of government in October 2016 has so far never been fulfilled.”

Russell said the actions of UK ministers have never matched those commitments, with them failing to respond to requests for information about the UK Government’s approach so that devolved governments could inform them. 

Read more: Scottish Parliament votes for right to hold referendum on Scottish independence in 2020

According to Russell, the Conservatives had ignored the SNP’s mandate to offer Scotland the right to choose its own future, despite the minister acknowledging the electoral mandate given to the UK Government to carry out Brexit: “Without mutual recognition of mandates there will be no trust, but with mutual recognition of mandates we can move forward.”

Scotland’s best option is to be an independent country inside of the EU, Russell told MSPs, but until then the Scottish Government will ensure the countries interests are not harmed by Brexit: “We will leave a light on here to guide us back to our European home.”

To mark the UK’s withdrawal, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to write an open letter to Europe which will be published across the EU. Health secretary Jeane Freeman will also issue a letter of thanks and reassurance to EU nationals working in the health and social care services in Scotland. 

Image courtesy of Calum Hutchinson 

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