‘Scotland should have same opportunity as NI from Brexit’, say SNP

SNP leaders have again insisted that Scotland should be given the “same opportunity” as Northern Ireland to stay in Europe’s single market post-Brexit.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that without such an arrangement being in place, Scotland would be left competing for investment with a country which was “effectively” still part of the trading bloc.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon

Her message, echoed by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, came as Theresa May prepared to face her Cabinet in a showdown meeting over the draft Brexit deal.

Ms Sturgeon said on Twitter that the “PM’s approach would take Scotland out of the single market (despite our 62% remain vote) but leave us competing for investment with Northern Ireland that is effectively still in it”.

Her remarks came as Democratic Unionist Party chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned the arrangements for Northern Ireland could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom.

He claimed the deal would in the “long term” leave Northern Ireland closely aligned with the EU and could increase support for Scottish independence.

“It’s about the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK, that is fundamental for us,” he told BBC Radio, adding that the “DUP does not stand alone on this, we have many friends within the Conservative Party and indeed in some other parties, who believe this deal has the potential to lead to the break-up of the UK”.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who is currently on maternity leave after the birth of her son, and Scottish Secretary David Mundell have both warned they could quit their roles if Brexit threatens to “undermine the integrity” of the UK.

Mr Blackford, an SNP MP, said the two Tories had “got questions to ask”, but added: “I’ll leave that to them.”

He stressed that Scotland should be treated the same as Northern Ireland.

“As far as we understand things this morning it looks as if it’s actually going to a be a different deal for Northern Ireland,” he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland.

“If it’s permissible for Northern Ireland to stay in the single market as part of the backstop - and I welcome that for the people of Northern Ireland - then of course Scotland should be given the same opportunity.”

He continued: “Nicola Sturgeon, our First Minister, has been very clear ever since the Brexit vote that we need to respect the votes of the people of Scotland and as a very minimum that means staying in the single market and the customs union, these are our red lines.”

Mr Blackford insisted it was “absolutely right” that the Brexit deal should enshrine the Good Friday agreement, which ended years of conflict in Northern Ireland, and ensure there is no return to a hard border with the Irish Republic.

But he went on: “The key point is that if there is to be a differentiation for Northern Ireland there is no reason why the circumstances in Scotland can also not be respected.

“We need to stay in the single market and the customs union, and the Government in London must listen to us on that.”