NICOLA Sturgeon has been warned the soft Brexit which she is currently campaigning for does not meet the five key tests she said must be met to protect Scotland’s interests.

The intervention comes from Dr Kirsty Hughes, one of the country’s leading experts on the European Union who accuses the First Minister of abandoning the red lines she set out in July 2016 a month after the in out referendum.

Writing in The National today Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, appealed to the FM to stick with the five tests - democracy, economic prosperity, social protection, solidarity and influence - which she says could not be met under a soft Brexit.

“In a ‘soft’ Brexit, democracy and influence are kicked to one side. Economic prosperity and social protection may remain – but less so than when the UK could initiate proposals and strategies, vote and fully participate in the EU,” she said.

“And solidarity is lost too. Leaving the EU is an extraordinary repudiation of European solidarity by the UK. In the midst of so many big challenges – from migration and refugees, to authoritarianism, violence and instability around the EU’s borders, to climate change – the UK has chosen inward-looking insularity. That would still be the case with a ‘soft’ Brexit.”

Hughes concluded: “2018 is the year that the chance for halting Brexit will be won or lost. But politics matters. And if neither the SNP nor Labour will lead on halting Brexit, then grass roots pressure alone won’t do it.

“In that case the UK will leave the EU – most likely in a hard Brexit or perhaps in a weak, powerless, undemocratic, unsustainable ‘soft’ Brexit. Is that really what the Scottish Government wants? Surely a better strategy would be to dig out Nicola Sturgeon’s five red lines and really stand up for them – by campaigning to halt Brexit.”

Hughes criticised over her decision to campaign for a soft Brexit and instead urged her to ditch it in favour of the key aim to stop Brexit.

The expert’s focus is on urging the First Minister to take a political lead on keeping the whole of the UK in the EU as a means of protecting Scotland’s (and the UK’s interests).

But similarly Sturgeon has argued the five key tests would be met by Scotland as an independent nation in the EU.

The analysis comes as the SNP hold a summit today in the House of Commons to draw up cross party parliamentary plans for a soft Brexit.

It is being organised by Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, who had invited Jeremy Corbyn to attend, but the Labour leader is not expected to.

“It is time for MPs of all parties to put politics aside and work together, in the national interest, to protect our place in the single market and customs union.

“Short of retaining our EU membership, that is by far the least damaging option, the best compromise, and the only way to protect jobs, incomes, and workers’ rights,” said Blackford when he announced the summit last month.

Scotland voted by 62 per cent to remain in the EU with all 32 local authority areas returning a majority in favour, and in recent weeks opinion polls have indicated support for staying has risen to 68 per cent.

Ahead of the 2016 Holyrood election the First Minister said that she would pursue a second independence referendum if Scotland voted to remain in the EU and the whole of the UK voted to leave.

But in December 2016 she published fresh proposals in her Scotland in Europe paper where she set out plans for a soft Brexit to keep the whole of the UK in the single market, failing that just Scotland, and failing that, then pursue a second independence referendum.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The First Minister has been absolutely clear that the best option for Scotland’s future is the one people voted for – remaining within the EU.

“However, she has a duty to do everything possible to protect Scotland’s interests in all circumstances and has therefore consistently argued that a Brexit that also takes Scotland out of the European Single Market would be even more damaging. Indeed the First Minister has been reiterating the vital importance to Scotland’s economy and society of the single market already this week.

“And that is why we will shortly be publishing a paper on our future relationship with Europe, including an analysis of the economic impact of each of the likely post-Brexit trade options facing the UK.” Hughes’s comments come after Blackford hit out at Corbyn for “failing millions of working people” “by siding with Tory Brexiteers”, after the Labour leader failed to attend the cross-party summit on protecting the UK’s place in the single market. “His absence from this meeting is deeply disappointing but it is not surprising,” he said.