The Scottish government is to ask opposition parties to unite behind it while lobbying the UK government over single market membership post-Brexit. Economy Secretary Keith Brown will lead a debate at Holyrood on Tuesday seeking unanimous support for market access. He called the EU a “vital trading body” for Scotland, asking the UK to “explore all avenues to protect this access”. All opposition parties have voiced support for single market access at various points since the EU referendum. Holyrood’s Europe committee has already called for single market access to be a key priority in the Brexit negotiations, although the UK government has refused to give a “running commentary” on its negotiating position. Mr Brown will seek to reinforce this position by uniting Holyrood’s parties in Tuesday’s debate. He said: “I am asking the Scottish Parliament to show consensus on this issue, so we can unanimously call on the UK Government to explore all avenues to protect this access, rather than dragging Scotland out against our will.”
He continued: “The EU is a vital trading body for Scotland. Cutting ties with the EU single market would seriously threaten Scotland’s attractiveness as a place to do business, remove several vital streams of funding, and endanger the security of jobs, businesses and services across the country. “That is why it is essential that this week our national Parliament sends as united a message as possible that Scotland must remain in the single market.” Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has previously pledged to argue for “the greatest amount of access to the single market” possible post-Brexit. Following a meeting at Downing Street in July, Ms Davidson said she had discussed the importance of the single market to Scottish business with Theresa May. She said: “We have to look at the particular context of places like Northern Ireland, Scotland and London, which voted to stay in [the EU] in quite large numbers, to get the best deal for all parts of the UK. “For me personally that means having the greatest amount of access to the single market. That’s what helps British business and Scottish business, so that’s the argument I’m going to continue to make.” However, she has also stated that while the European market is “very important”, “it is not as important as our own UK single market”, pointing to the much larger volume of trade Scotland does with the rest of the UK compared with the EU. Scottish Labour have vocally backed Scotland’s place in the single market, with Kezia Dugdale calling for “all options” to be explored to protect this, including a “federalised UK”.
The party drew up a “post-Brexit action plan” for Scotland’s economy, which underlined the importance of the European market to the financial services sector in particular. The Scottish Greens called for the single market to be reformed in the build-up to the EU referendum, but were committed backers of the Remain campaign. Since, the party’s Europe spokesman Ross Greer has called for “every avenue” to be explored “to keep Scotland in Europe”, including the possibility of Scottish independence. The Scottish Lib Dems are strongly pro-European, with leader Willie Rennie calling on members at the party’s autumn conference not to “give up on Europe”. However, the party withdrew its support from Nicola Sturgeon’s negotiating position with the UK after Mr Rennie said she was only interested in pursuing Scottish independence.