BREXIT “robbed the next generation of Scots”, according to External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson ahead of the unveiling of a new independence paper on Europe.

The minister said last night that Scotland was “at its core is European” as he blasted the damage of Brexit to the country’s economy.

The new paper is expected to outline what the Scottish Government’s relations with Europe will look like post-independence.

There is debate within the independence movement about closer ties with Europe after independence, with the SNP and Greens favouring joining the EU while Alba argue joining the European Free Trade Association (Efta) would be quicker in the immediate term.

'Scotland's ties to Europe endure'

Robertson told The National: “In June 2016, Scotland voted in support of the immense benefits EU membership offers us.

“But England didn’t – so Scotland was dragged out against its will by a Tory and Labour pro-Brexit pact.

“Scotland at its core is European. The ties that bind us go beyond trade and cultural links and are felt deeply at the heart of our communities.

“The paper we are publishing today sets out not only how we could meaningfully reverse the damage of Brexit, but how Scotland can enjoy the benefits of EU membership by joining as an independent country in the European family of nations.

The National: Angus Robertson

“The benefits of course are considerable – open access to the world’s largest single market, which now accounts for almost 450 million consumers and 16.2% of global trade.

“The EU single market is seven times the size of the UK, so EU membership would mean companies here could trade freely with more businesses and sell to more customers.

“Producers across Scotland might also remember a time with free movement of goods, services, capital and people, as they grapple with the current labour shortages faced by key sectors like agriculture, academia and hospitality, not to mention our NHS, as a result of Brexit cutting that freedom of movement.

“Reversing that cut would provide more and better opportunities for training and employment for people in Scotland.

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“It will be easier to attract and retain people from across the EU to sustain our businesses, world-leading universities and public services.

“Independent EU countries similar to Scotland are wealthier and fairer than the UK, so with all our resources and talents why not Scotland?”

Economic impact

And he railed against the impact Brexit has had on the Scottish economy, citing recent research which showed Scottish businesses blamed leaving the trading bloc for making it harder to export goods and recruit staff.

He added: “Analysis published by the Scottish Government in June this year on the impact of Brexit found 44% of businesses in Scotland naming Brexit as the main cause of difficulties trading overseas.

“Staff shortages have been reported by 45% of tourism businesses in the Highlands and Islands as a result of the loss of freedom of movement, and some shellfish exporters have faced additional estimated costs of up to £600 per consignment as a result of Brexit-induced trade barriers.

“The Scottish Government’s view is that the damage of Brexit to our economy is not as good as it gets for our businesses, or the people they support, including the many thousands of EU citizens who have chosen to make their home in our communities.”

'Robbed a generation' 

Robertson also noted how Brexit had “robbed” younger Scots of the right to work and live in Europe – warning that they would “not forgive Westminster for the damage caused”.

“Our young people have also lost so much too,” he said.

“Generations of Scottish students had the opportunity to study across Europe and build friendships that brought Scotland closer to our European neighbours.

“But Brexit has robbed the next generation of Scots of these experiences, connections and opportunities. They will not forgive Westminster for the damage caused.

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“But our educational relationship with the EU was reciprocal – with students from across Europe coming to Scotland, many of whom have made Scotland their home and contribute to our economy and society each and every day.

“Today is International Students Day and it is fitting that the Scottish Government will launch its prospectus for rejoining the European Union at one of Scotland’s world class universities.

“Young people have continued to be let down by this UK Government.

“With both Labour and the Tories closing the door to a host of opportunities for young people, no wonder our students want change.

“But the only way we can actually change our course is having the full powers of a normal independent country at our disposal.

“While Brexit Britain ploughs on with their isolationist approach - people in Scotland reject this outlook and want to play their part on the world stage.

“Young Scots know their future lies in Europe – and they know that only Independence will deliver it.”

Greens eye European comeback

Writing exclusively in The National today, Scottish Greens minister Patrick Harvie said his party were working with their European counterparts to ensure Scotland’s re-entry to Europe would be “smooth and quick”.

The National: Patrick Harvie

He said: “The Scottish Greens remain an active member party of the European Greens.

“We have sister parties across the EU, and as more and more of the European public wake up to the climate crisis and for a kinder, more compassionate politics, these parties are doing increasingly well.

“Greens are in government in six EU countries and many regional and local governments. They represent a powerful force in the European Parliament and Brussels, and they are vocal in supporting Scotland's path to rejoining.

“The Scottish Greens are working with them and others to help ensure that Scotland’s journey back into the EU is smooth and quick – and I look forward to the day when Scottish Green MEPs take their places alongside them.”