Scottish Brexit minister says referendum may be only remaining option to avoid “hard Britain”
SCOTTISH brexit minister Mike Russell has told an audience of third sector bodies that Scotland is “moving to” a second independence referendum due to UK Government intransigence and a growing ideological divide.
Addressing a session of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation’s (SCVO) The Gathering conference in Glasgow this morning (23 February), Russell expressed his frustrations over negotiations with the UK Government, saying they were “absolutely obsessed with stopping immigration” and wanted a “hard Britain” following a “hard Brexit”, discarding values of social solidarity.
Speaking to charity workers at the third sector summit in Glasgow Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), he said: “I have to negotiate, on behalf of Scotland, with people who are absolutely obsessed with stopping immigration.
“I have to negotiate with people who are absolutely obsessed with stopping immigration.”
“Their vision of a society they want to live in, is a very hard society indeed, a society that looks for the triumph of the fittest and has no compassion at all. That’s not a society I want to see in Scotland.”
He told those gathered that with the UK Government choosing to exit the EU single market the first demand in the Scottish Government’s ‘Scotland in Europe’ white paper had been rejected, but that he was still seeking a compromise solution – maintaining a free trading relationship with the EU for Scotland, requiring further devolution from both London and Brussels to the Scottish Parliament.
However, he warned that in the defence of “our values”, independence may be necessary and that there isn’t “any doubt that’s where we are moving to”.
“It comes down to a choice between those two societies,” he said.
“There is only one further option, which is to say to the people of Scotland ‘do you want that society [hard Britain], or do you want to choose independence and have this society’? I don’t think there’s any doubt that’s where we are moving to.
“We have tried, in the national interest, to find another way of doing this. But it does take two to tango, and the UK Government aren’t presently on the dance floor with us.”
“We don’t have to get there. We have tried, in the national interest, to find another way of doing this. But it does take two to tango, and the UK Government aren’t presently on the dance floor with us.”
The comments come after UK Prime Minister Theresa May told her cabinet to prepare to defend the union during Brexit negotiations.
Russell told the event that May’s claim that the UK should leave the EU as it joined – a single entity – did not take into account the process of devolution to national parliaments across the UK in subsequent decades.
May has said devolved administration in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be consulted during Brexit negotiations and called on cabinet members to “listen to and engage with the devolved administrations”, whilst instructing them to defend the union.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly warned that failure to compromise over brexit has made a second referendum on Scottish independence “highly likely”.
Picture courtesy Ewan McIntosh
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