LABOUR’S shadow Scottish secretary has come under attack for claiming a country has to be a member of the EU to be in the European single market.

Lesley Laird faced criticism after she was questioned on her party’s Brexit stance in a television interview yesterday, as she was asked why it would not commit to remaining in the single market.

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“Well, I think we recognise that the current single market would require certain things. The current single market agreement would require us to be a member of the EU and that’s the position,” she said.

But responding to her claims, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Why do some Labour politicians keep repeating the demonstrable falsehood that it’s not possible to be in the single market without being in the EU? Is it a misunderstanding (hard to believe given how many times the reality has been pointed out) or a blatant attempt to mislead?”

Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), which enables them to fully participate in the single market, where they commit to the free movement of goods, capital, services and people – but are not members of the European Union.

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The issue arose as Scottish Labour comes under renewed pressure over its Brexit stance, having backed UK Labour’s position on supporting a customs union with the European Union but not wanting single market membership.

New leader Richard Leonard has already faced calls for the party to back permanent single market membership at its upcoming spring conference being held over three days in Dundee from Friday.

Ten of Scotland’s 73 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) have passed motions urging the conference to support the UK retaining permanent membership of the European single market and customs union.

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And yesterday former leader Kezia Dugdale formed a campaign group in support of the UK remaining in the EU’s single market.

The new Scottish Labour for the Single Market group said it will work with trade unions and other campaigns to fight for Labour to support permanent UK membership of the European single market and customs union.

It is described as a grassroots campaign co-chaired by Dugdale, MP Ian Murray and MEP Catherine Stihler.

Dugdale said: “When the EU referendum took place, nobody voted to put jobs at risk, prolong austerity, or tear up our rights at work or as consumers.

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“But this is precisely what the Tory Government is now doing. The Labour Party has to stop them.

Jeremy Corbyn’s welcome decision to support a customs union puts clear blue water between us and the Tories, however, if we are to leave the EU, the least-worst option for limiting the damage caused by a Tory Brexit is to also remain in the single market.

“This is the only way to tackle austerity, protect jobs and defend our hard-won rights for workers and consumers.

“Scottish Labour can lead the way and help persuade our party to ensure the UK permanently remains in the single market.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Richard campaigned to remain in the EU but he accepts the referendum result and the franchise of the referendum.

“There is no state which is a full member of the single market which is not a member of the European Union.

“Therefore, in keeping with the policy laid out by Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesperson, Scottish Labour will continue to seek a deal which retains the benefits of the single market, and will not support a deal which does not.”

He added: “It is clear now that Scottish Labour must unite around an agenda which secures a new and progressive relationship with the European Union and protects Scotland’s devolution agreement within the UK.”

A report by the Scottish Government and a leaked study by the UK Government have warned of the severe economic damage the UK faces under all possible Brexit scenarios.

Both pieces of research said the impact would be worst in a no deal situation where trade would fall on World Trade Organisation rules. Under such a scenario the studies warned GDP forecast could fall by up to 9 per cent by 2030 – a development that would leave the average Scot £2300 a year worse off.

The studies pointed out that the “least worst option” would be for the UK to remain in the single market, though said economic growth would be slower than it would have been if the UK remained in the EU.