NICOLA Sturgeon said she is “determined” to keep Scotland in the European single market, but warns that indyref2 is still on the table if the Tories don’t deliver a Brexit package that works for Scotland.

The First Minister made the commitment to free trade and movement of people between Scotland and Europe, as she published the Scottish Government’s Brexit proposals yesterday. Scotland’s place in Europe, a 50-page document, was, Sturgeon said, “serious” and “proper” and also “imperfect”, and a “compromise”, but given the situation Scotland finds itself in, it was in the best interests of the country.

An independence referendum would remain on the table if the proposals within the document failed to be taken seriously, and adopted by the UK Government in their Brexit negotiations. The First Minister emphasised that her preferred option for the country would be an independent Scotland as a full member of the EU.

Six months on from the EU referendum these proposals are also the only plans for Brexit produced by any government or administration in the UK.

There were three key strands in the Scottish Government’s pitch.

First, that the UK stays in the single market, the “soft-Brexit” option. The First Minister admitted that such an outcome seemed “unlikely”.

“I accept that there is a mandate in England and Wales to take the UK out of the EU. However, I do not accept that there is a mandate to take any part of the UK out of the single market. It would make no economic sense whatsoever for the UK to leave the single market.”

If that wasn’t to happen then, Sturgeon argued, Scotland should stay in the single market by becoming a part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA), in what has been described as Norway-style deal. This would need substantial powers over immigration devolved to Holyrood, and could also have benefits to the rest of the UK, the First Minister said. “There will be those who say a differentiated option for Scotland, such as the one we propose, would be too difficult to achieve and as I have said, the paper does not under- estimate the challenges,” she said.

“The negotiations ahead will be characterised by a need to find practical solutions to a range of complex issues. It is in that spirit that we seek to find solutions that will respect the voice and protect the interests of Scotland.”

Sturgeon also denied that this sort of deal, and the free movement of people would lead to any sort of trade or “hard” border between Scotland and England.

“Talk of a hard border for Scotland has always rung hollow from a UK Government that says no such hard border will be required between a post-Brexit UK and the Republic of Ireland, a continuing member of the EU,” she said.

The paper also argues that, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, the devolution settlement should be fundamentally reviewed.

Powers over fishing and farming, employment law, immigration and powers to strike international agreements should not be taken by the UK Government in a “Westminster power grab” but repatriated from Brussels to Holyrood.

When pushed on how long she would give the UK Government to consider the paper before calling a second independence referendum, Sturgeon replied: “There’s a bit of water to go under the bridge from the UK Government side. We know the date for the triggering of Article 50, we don’t know from the UK Government if that’s going to be a one-line letter saying ‘we trigger Article 50’ or whether it’s going to be a more detailed proposition saying what they want from the negotiations.

She added: “What I said about independence on June 24 still stands. I’ve put forward today serious and reasonable proposals. I have asked for them to be considered. I think it is only fair that I fulfil my side of the bargain and give the UK Government time to do that, before I immediately start talking about what I do in the, at the moment, hypothetical scenario that they reject these proposals.”

The document was the work of a “standing council” of experts on Europe, set up by the Scottish Government in the immediate after- math of the June 23 vote, when a majority of Scots voted to remain A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Government is committed to getting a deal on exiting the EU that works for all parts of the UK – which clearly includes Scotland – and works for the UK as a whole. The best way for that to be achieved is for the Government and devolved administrations to work together.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond said this month that a special Brexit deal for Scotland was “not realistic”. He said it was “clear we can’t have a different deal or different outcomes for different parts of the UK”, adding it would be a “disadvantage” for Scotland to be outside whatever new relationship the UK negotiated with the EU.


What do the Scottish Government's Brexit plans mean 
for indyref2?

Scenario one – unlikely, but possible 
Theresa May agrees to the proposal to keep the whole of the UK in the single European market. This would mean the entire UK should stay in the single market by remaining “a party to the European Economic Area agreement” and staying in the customs union. The First Minister believes this so-called “soft-Brexit” deal is “entirely democratically justifiable”, and is consistent with the total UK vote to leave the bloc. Nicola Sturgeon has conceded it seems an “unlikely outcome”.
Impact on indyref2? Shelved for now

Scenario two – very unlikely
Scotland would get a separate deal to remain in the single market, through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA) – even if the rest of the UK chose to leave.
Sturgeon insists this option does not prioritise membership of the single market over continued free trade across the UK, but would “safeguard both” and would not require a hard border.
Under this option, Scotland would be outside the customs union if the UK decides to leave it and would require powers over immigration to be devolved to Holyrood. Sturgeon also wants powers over fishing and farming to be repatriated from Brussels to Holyrood while areas such as employment law and powers to strike international agreements should be devolved.
Impact on indyref2? Shelved for now

Scenario three – more likely
May does not agree to options one or two, and the First Minister presses ahead with plans to hold a second independence referendum. 
The Scottish Government would first bring a bill before Holyrood, probably sometime before the end of this parliamentary year. While the SNP has not got a majority, support from the pro-independence Scottish Greens would allow the legislation to pass.
Once done, a Section 30 order, would be required from Westminster, allowing the referendum to be held. Nicola Sturgeon wants the vote to take place before the UK leaves the EU. 
If Article 50 is triggered according to plan by the end of March 2017, the UK would have two years to leave the bloc with the exiting deadline of March 2019.
There has been increasing talk of the UK Government wanting “a transitional deal” to smooth the way in establishing its new relationship with the EU and the rest of the world, and as May has said to stop the country “falling off a cliff edge”.
It remains to be seen if EU leaders would agree, although the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier wants to prevent the UK from getting a soft transitional deal that would allow single market access once it has left without meeting the EU’s obligations, such as free movement of people and paying into the EU budget.
Impact on indyref2? GAME ON!