THE road to Brexit after the Leave vote in the 2016 EU referendum was a long and tortuous one, punctuated by bad tempered negotiations over a new trading arrangement with our former partners, missed deadlines, British requests for extensions, parliamentary rejections of proposed deals, a change in Prime Minister and two UK general elections.

All this took place under the shadow of possibly crashing out of Europe without any deal at all.

There were a number of huge mistakes made before Boris Johnson cobbled together an arrangement in the closing days of 2020 which would be imposed on Scotland against its will and which would turn out to be a disaster for key industries such as fishing and the food sector overall.

The Westminster government made mistake after mistake as the clock ticked on the prospect of a No-Deal Brexit:

1. Ignoring the wishes of Scotland and the other devolved nations The UK voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum by 53.4% to 46.6% but Scotland voted by 62% to 38% to stay.

Northern Ireland also voted to stay, by 55.8% to 44.2%. Wales opted to leave by 52.5% to 47.5% and England by 53.4% to 46.6%. Thus England always gets what it votes for in big decisions. Scotland only gets what it votes for if England agrees. The arithmetic makes any other outcome impossible.

But that doesn’t mean Scottish votes have to be completely ignored. If the Westminster government had wanted to fulfil the promises it made to Scotland just before the independence referendum in 2014 it would have paid attention to our votes and made some compromises.

The Scottish Government made its position very clear after the EU referendum. It thought the best outcome would have been to remain in the UK but recognised that would be impossible without independence. It was, however, determined to maintain Scotland’s position in the European Single Market.

READ MORE: Open Minds on Independence #10: How Scotland suffers most from Brexit

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at the time there were already a range of different arrangements within the single market and the EU framework which could be adapted for Scotland.

She said: “The fact is that the negotiations ahead – given the unprecedented circumstances in which we now find ourselves – will be characterised by a necessity to find practical solutions to a range of complex issues. It is in this spirit that we seek to find solutions that will respect the voice and protect the interests of Scotland.”

However, the months ahead were characterised by dismissal after dismissal by Westminster of Scottish suggestions. Our continued membership of the single market was refused. No attempt was made to even try to make an arrangement acceptable to the Scottish Government.

2. Sticking so rigidly to “getting Brexit done” that it made an acceptable trade deal impossible When the trade “deal” put together at the last minute by Boris Johnson came into effect on January 1 it was immediately apparent there were serious problems.

Johnson had been under heavy pressure to reach some agreement with the EU before the end of the year to avoid the No-Deal Brexit commonly regarded as the worst of all possible options. Recent events have suggested the current situation is hardly much better.

An increase in paperwork and red tape has stopped lorries from getting produce to European markets on time. The Scottish fishing industry has been the hardest hit, with produce rotting in lorries taking twice or three times as long to reach their destinations. Losses have been estimated to be as high as £1m a day and some firms have been close to closure.

Government ministers have described the export trade collapse as “teething problems” and tried to suggest the situation is improving but trade bodies have reported little improvement and, although the number of lorries reaching Europe has increased, far more are going back empty.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics report a 63% slump in Scottish exports to Europe. Fish and shellfish alone were down by 83%. Millions of pounds have been lost in order to allow the Prime Minister to say he has kept his promise to “get Brexit done”.

3. Underestimating just how big a problem taking Northern Ireland out of the EU would be The EU referendum vote dictated that although it had voted Remain, Northern Ireland would have to leave while neighbouring Republic of Ireland would remain. That caused significant headaches, not least of them the need for a hard border between the two parts of Ireland to recognise the different trading rules.

The claims that would break the Irish peace accord, the Good Friday agreement, which they interpreted as ruling out exactly that type of border.

Then-prime minister Theresa May suggested a “backstop” which would have done away with a hard border by keeping Northern Ireland in some aspects of the single market and created a common customs territory for the UK as a whole. Westminster rejected that idea, which was replaced by the Northern Ireland protocol which means Northern Ireland is no longer legally in the customs union but remains an entry point into it. The protocol effectively creates a border in the Irish Sea.

This arrangement has caused serious problems and sparked fears that the terms negotiated last year will spark further food shortages in NI when implemented in full at the end of this month. Relations between Britain and the EU have reached a new low with Britain announcing it was going to relax procedures and checks on British supermarket suppliers trading in NI and the EC launching legal action against it.

The stability of Northern Ireland is now at risk because Boris Johnson underestimated the difficulty in finding a solution to the problem when he took up office.

4. Using Brexit as an attack on devolution and to reduce the powers of the Scottish Parliament Immediately after the EU referendum vote, the Scottish Government argued that in light of the removal of the rights and protections provided by EU law, the powers of the Scottish Parliament should be fundamentally revisited.

It wanted existing powers protected and new powers over employment law and immigration, to give just two examples.

Instead, Westminster has taken away the Scottish Parliament’s right to spend money that once came from Europe. It has set up the ludicrously titled “levelling up” fund and planed to use it without considering priorities set by our own parliament.

And to make matters worse it will plant the Union flag on all such projects in a blatant bid to trick voters into thinking the cash is a “gift” from Westminster rather than simply redirecting our own money into projects our own parliament does not consider a priority.

It has been described by politicians serving in devolved governments – including former Welsh prime minister Carwyn Jones, as a move to divert money away from them.

These moves in Scotland have transparently been inspired by rising support for independence. In other words, Westminster is seizing control of our own money and spending it in ways they believe will work against our own desire to take control of our country’s future.

5. Breaking promises to keep Scotland involved and informed in negotiations with the EU Before she became prime minister, Theresa May put forward a vision of the UK “in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners”. Following the Brexit vote, she said that the Brexit progress would not be triggered until there was a UK approach and that Scotland would be “fully engaged” in the process.

In fact, Scotland was kept entirely out of the negotiations and at no stage agreed that any aspect of Brexit should proceed.

Michael Russell, Scotland’s Constitution Secretary, told the Scottish Parliament last June that the UK “negotiating mandate” for the talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU and the draft UK legal texts on which the negotiations are meant to be based were drawn up entirely without input from Scotland.

The Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiations, which was supposed to have “oversight” of these negotiations as they affect devolved competences and to agree to the UK position, had met just once since the discussions started.

A majority of MSPs at Holyrood voted in December against Boris Johnson’s trade deal, which it said would have a “severe detrimental impact on Scotland” and that leaving the EU was a “mistake of historic significance”.

In less than three months events have proved both those statements to be true.