RUTH Davidson and the Scottish Conservatives are risking a damaging no-deal Brexit and a return of the Troubles by refusing to back a special deal for Northern Ireland, according to a leading expert on European affairs.

Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, gave a damning assessment of Davidson’s opposition to a bespoke arrangement for the region to prevent a return to a hard border with the Irish Republic.

Under the EU’s so-called backstop plan, Northern Ireland would stay in the single market and customs union.

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The Scottish Conservative leader, along with the Scottish Secretary David Mundell, have threatened to resign if such an arrangement goes ahead, saying it could set a precedent and increase support for Scottish independence.

Writing in the Financial Times yesterday, Adam Tomkins, the Scottish Conservative’s constitutional affairs spokesman, said: “From a Scottish Conservative and Unionist perspective, what goes for Northern Ireland must go for Scotland also.

“In particular there can be no separate Brexit deal for each of the nations that comprise the United Kingdom.

“We voted as one country to leave the EU, and both the Withdrawal Agreement and future trading relations with the bloc must be the same for the whole of the UK, subject only to such differences as already exist — the all-Ireland energy market for example.

The National:

David Mundell threatened to quit government 

“To Arlene Foster this is a blood-red line. Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, and David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, have made it clear to Mrs May they would resign were Brexit to result in different deals for each of the UK’s constituent nations. These are not idle threats made in the heat of the moment: Scottish Tories are Unionists first and Conservatives second.”

Hughes hit back at the claims, pointing out the First Minister’s call for a special deal for Scotland was not likely to happen.

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“Ruling out a NI-specific backstop implies a readiness to risk v damaging no-deal Brexit for UK &/or to damage Irish peace process, “ she tweeted.

“There’s no special deal in sight for Scotland but Scottish Tories, the party that brought us Brexit, are ready to damage Irish peace process for own Unionist concerns. If they really want to protect the Union, they wd speak out for remain & against growing damage of Brexit.”

Hughes underlined Scottish Government policy was for the UK to remain in EU, failing that for it to remain in the single market and customs union, and failing that for Scotland to stay in single market.

Businesses in Northern Ireland want to stay in the customs union – rejecting the DUP plans.

Earlier this week Trevor Lockhart, chair of Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland, said: “Our plan A would be to stay in a permanent custom union and a deep partnership with the single market.”

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “Perhaps Kirsty Hughes should spend less time making politically motivated attacks, and more time respecting the democratic result of the Brexit vote.”