BREXIT Secretary Mike Russell led the calls at Holyrood to reject Theresa May's draft Brexit deal and a no-deal Brexit.

With the exception of the Tories, every party united in supporting that move, sending a clear and powerful message to Westminster.

Below is the full text of Russell's speech – with interjections by Tory MSP Murdo Fraser.


Mike Russell: "I make it clear that, in keeping with the vote of the people of Scotland on 23 June 2016, the Scottish Government regards membership of the EU as the best outcome from the current chaos; moreover, it believes that that aim is still achievable. Nonetheless, when I addressed Parliament on 25 October, I committed to bring any EU withdrawal deal and political declaration, when agreed by the UK Government, to this Parliament before it was voted on in House of Commons.

READ MORE: Tory MSP left red-faced as Mike Russell quotes his Unionist blog

"I am pleased to do so today with a motion that is the result of a unique collaboration between four of the five parties in this Parliament. If it is agreed to, Scotland will say that it rejects both the Prime Minister’s deal and no deal and instead looks to its politicians to find a better way forward. It is important that those politicians—including ourselves—do not let the people down."

Murdo Fraser: "Will Mr Russell take an intervention?"

Mike Russell: "I will make some progress first.

"Of course, there are various options that could provide a long-term solution to the problem of Brexit—a problem that is absorbing huge amounts of time and effort and is worrying and upsetting so many of our fellow citizens.

"Staying in the EU might be achieved by providing the opportunity for a second vote, as strongly backed in this Parliament by the Liberal Democrats and supported by ourselves and the Greens. However, short of staying, the only acceptable compromise, which the Scottish Government has advocated for two years, is continued membership of the single market and the customs union. Others, primarily in the Labour Party, have argued for a general election as the best way to resolve the issue. The Scottish National Party would also support that option in a vote at Westminster. In fact, the only option that does not provide a solution to the current chaos of Brexit is that proposed by the Prime Minister.

"I will outline some of the many problems with the deal, and in doing so I will try to bring home the effects of the proposal to members sitting on the Tory benches."

Murdo Fraser: "Will the member give way?"

Mike Russell: "No—I ask the member to allow me to make some progress.

"I start with the Highlands and Islands, part of which I represent. It is also the region for which Mr Cameron is a list member; indeed, he was the Conservative candidate for my constituency of Argyll and Bute at the last election.

"The population of Argyll and Bute and the Highlands is not growing naturally. To put it bluntly, we are not reproducing ourselves. We need migration even to remain static. A fifth of the working-age population of the area will retire in the next five to 10 years. We need to replace them. If we do not replace them, there will be continued depopulation and accelerating economic decline. The only way that we can do so is through migration, for which the best solution is freedom of movement, which allows easy passage and great flexibility. Business in my constituency tells me that all the time, but the Prime Minister has set her face against such a solution, with strident and deeply regrettable language.

"Unless the deal is rejected, the area that I represent, and which Mr Cameron has sought to represent as a constituency member—and may again—will be severely and permanently damaged. Will he vote for that?"

Murdo Fraser: "Will the member give way?"

Michael Russell: "Of course."

Murdo Fraser: "Mr Russell has just mentioned what business wants. Every leading business organisation in Scotland—the Confederation of British Industry, the chambers of commerce, NFU Scotland, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the Scotch Whisky Association—and leading figures such as Sir Ian Wood are urging the Scottish Government and politicians at Westminster to back the Prime Minister’s deal. Should he not listen to business?"

Michael Russell: "That is not entirely accurate. For example, the CBI’s head of EU negotiations, Nicole Sykes, has argued that there is 'no need to give credit to negotiators ... because it’s not a good deal'.

"That is the CBI’s view of it. Of course, there are fishermen the length and breadth of Scotland, including those in my own constituency. I declare an interest as the honorary president of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, which says that it is not a deal that should be backed.

"Let me continue, because I shall come to the issue of certainty—which is what business wants—in a moment.

"Unless the deal is rejected, rural areas will be hit in other ways, too. The guarantees for agricultural funding run until only 2022, and the failure of the UK to agree on the Agriculture Bill makes it more urgent for us to legislate here.

"For fisheries, the message is even starker. The Tories have sold out Scottish fishing yet again, linking it to trade and agreeing to build any new settlement on existing access and quotas. The deal says so, despite the increasingly desperate assertions from Mr Carlaw last week, egged on by the members who represent the north-east on either side of him. Are Mr Chapman and Mr Burnett going to vote for that?

"Our cities also benefit greatly from EU funding. For example, money from the European social fund has, in part, helped unemployed people to gain qualifications and find jobs. Money from the European regional development fund has helped to accelerate the growth of Glasgow’s small and medium-sized enterprises. EU green infrastructure funding has helped the environment. Not a single promise has yet been made about replacing all those much-needed sums of money in Glasgow. Is Mr Tomkins really going to vote to impoverish the city that he represents and for decline in the university sector, which he also knows well?

"The EU is the largest single market for Scotland’s international exports, which were worth £12.7 billion in 2016 and which, directly and indirectly, support hundreds of thousands of jobs across Scotland. In 2015, Scotland exported around £3.6 billion-worth of goods to countries with which the EU has free-trade agreements. Such exports mean the difference between success and failure for businesses large and small, such as those that employ many in constituencies such as Eastwood. Is Mr Carlaw going to vote against his own constituents’ employment and prosperity?

"To put it bluntly—but accurately—no free-trade agreement in the world provides anything close to the freedom of movement for services that presently exists for Scotland in the European single market. Services cover many sectors, but of course Edinburgh is particularly dependent on financial and legal services, which fuel the economy of the city. Members for Edinburgh know that well, including the leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Yet the Prime Minister’s deal will make it considerably harder for Edinburgh companies to trade in services with Europe. Why would the party led by Ruth Davidson vote in favour of that?

"In every area of Scotland, businesses, organisations, communities and individuals will suffer directly, over a long period of time, if this deal is approved. Each and every person will suffer. The analysis that we have done indicates that if, after leaving the EU, we were to move to a free-trade agreement, by 2030 our gross domestic product would be cut by £9 billion, which is equivalent to £1,600 per person in Scotland. We can forget the promises of £350 million a week more for the national health service—the reality is £30 a week less for every man, woman and child, with no respite.

"The deal is not even the end of uncertainty—that is just another false promise. In fact, the uncertainty flowing from the Prime Minister’s deal would have to last until the end of the transition period, which will not be in December 2020—no one believes that—but is more likely to be in December 2022, or even later. That is at least another four years of uncertainty to add to the two and a half that we have already had—four more years of stagnation and lack of investment, with no guarantee that a free-trade deal will ever be struck. Those are the fruits of Conservative government. More of the same, and worse: more meaningless assertions, false claims, cliff-edge negotiations and lack of economic confidence and security.

"It must not happen. Scotland needs and deserves better than the Prime Minister’s blindfold Brexit. In truth, this deal is about saving the Prime Minister, and not about saving her country.

"It is a matter of fact that there is no certainty in the Prime Minister’s deal on the future trading arrangements for either goods or services. There is no possibility of much-needed flexible future mobility arrangements. There is no clarity on which—if any—of the existing justice and law enforcement tools and measures may remain available, and there is no guarantee of continued participation in the broad range of EU programmes and funds that support our universities, communities, non-governmental organisations and businesses.

"The Scottish Government has recognised the inherent danger in that, but there is one silver lining: it does not have to be like that. I repeat the fact that the choice is not between May’s deal and no deal. Yesterday’s opinion from the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice demonstrated that, and the vote by MPs confirmed it.

"Reasonable people are now moving to ensure that a better way is found. Last night, the Welsh Assembly voted decisively to reject the Prime Minister’s deal. It is revealing that the only votes against came from the Tories and the UK Independence Party, which is now so far to the right that even Nigel Farage has had to resign from it.

"Members can contribute to and move that process on by voting for the motion in my name and in the names of Mr Findlay, Mr Greer and Mr Scott. I commend that action and the motion to the Parliament.

"I move, That the Parliament agrees that both a no deal outcome and the outcomes arising from the withdrawal agreement and political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK, as presented to the House of Commons by the Prime Minister, would be damaging for Scotland and the nations and regions of the UK as a whole, and therefore recommends that they be rejected and that a better alternative be taken forward."