THERE is “no desire in Scotland to have membership of the EU”, Scotland Secretary Alister Jack has claimed despite significant evidence to the contrary. 

During Scotland Questions, SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford said: “There simply are no real Brexit opportunities or sunlit uplands.

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"So does it come as a surprise to the secretary of state that a poll last year showed 69% of Scottish voters want to rejoin the EU?”

Jack wasn't having it - arguing that "opinion polls come and go", despite 62% of Scots voting to Remain in 2016.

Consistent polling has shown that Scottish support for returning to the EU is at least that figure - and in recent instances as high as 72%.

He went on: “What I would say about the benefits of Brexit, we can make our own trade deals and we’ve made 71 to date.”

The vast majority of these cited trade deals were simply rolled over from existing EU arrangements.

In her response, Whitford added: “With the Labour Party having now lashed itself to the mast of the floundering Brexit ship, does the Secretary of State at least recognise the only route back to the EU for Scotland is an independent country?”

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The minister responded to claim Scotland's "deficit" is too high and "currency is a problem", suggesting the country would struggle to join the bloc.

“There’s no desire in Scotland to have membership of the EU," he claimed. "I believe Scots when they stop and look at the detail, whether it’s on their pensions, whether it’s on trade, whether it’s on currency, they stop, they think about it and they know that their home is the UK.”

Alyn Smith, the SNP's Europe spokesperson, said it was a "palpably false claim". 

The National: All Under One Banner march for independence from Stirling old bridge to Bannockburn. Pictured is Alyn Smith MP speaking at Bannockburn.

Photograph by Colin Mearns
25 June 2022

"I presume, trying to be charitable, that Alister simply misspoke when he said 'there is no desire in Scotland to rejoin the EU' because it has surely even reached up to the ivory towers of the Scotland Office that this is a palpably false claim."

He went on: "It is quite obvious that Scotland's removal from the EU against our will has been a disaster for us as a nation and as a society, for our economy, our fishers, farmers and everyone else."

Smith said it's clear that Scotland's best solution is independence in Europe. 

"I hope [Jack's] not going to pretend, as some of his loopier colleagues do, that up is down, black is white and facts don't matter."

Fellow MP Chris Law was stunned by Jack's comment. "In a parallel universe far far away, there resides a UK Govt whose ministers haven’t got a clue about facts on the ground," he said.

And campaign group the European Movement in Scotland accused Jack of living in "Brexit lalaland".

"More than 70% of Scottish voters consistently back rejoin and/or regret the UK's Leave vote. There is no Brexit upside for Scotland - and the 71 trade deals he quotes are, largely, either cut-and-paste EU deals or worse than the EU agreement we enjoyed.

"Ask Scottish farmers about the Australian deal!"

There is minimal evidence to support claims that Scotland has enjoyed "Brexit benefits".

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Recent studies by the London School of Economics found food bills are £210 higher per household per year as a result of tariffs imposed by leaving the bloc, as well as an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) study which predicted long-term productivity to be 4% lower as a result of Brexit.

And from 2019 to 2021, the value of Scottish exports to the EU plummeted by £2.2 billion, from £16.7bn to £14.5bn.

Brexit has also contributed to the challenges facing the NHS, a report released in December found.

Nuffield Foundation research showed that the number of consultants, dentists and nurses recruited into the NHS from the EU dropped dramatically after the UK left the trading bloc.