THE Northern Ireland Protocol, put in place by the bumbling Boris Johnson, has caused mayhem since it was ratified in January 2020.

Either through ignorance or arrogance, the then-PM sought to “get Brexit done” – and in doing so, destabilised Northern Irish democracy and threatened the security of the Good Friday Agreement. People from every political persuasion saw the need to seek reform of the protocol and the importance of peace in Northern Ireland.

This week, Rishi Sunak has managed to negotiate a deal that many, mostly from his own party, thought would be impossible. The Windsor Framework transforms that protocol and through that, Northern Ireland’s trading rules with the European single market.

The concept is quite simple – there are red and green lanes. British goods going to Northern Ireland will go through the green lane and face minimal checks. To use this system, a company would have to register with the UK Government and go through the relevant vetting. Meanwhile, goods travelling through to Ireland will use the red lane and face customs checks.

Another main concern of Unionists was addressed in the negotiation – the role of the European Court of Justice as the arbiter of EU laws on goods.

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There is a mechanism called the “Stormont Brake” which allows the devolved government to flag concerns over European legislation under certain circumstances.

The Prime Minister stood up and stated in the Chamber that the protocol now allows trade to flow freely within our UK internal market and removes any sense of a border in the Irish Sea, whilst at the same time acknowledging the value and importance that Northern Irish businesses have in accessing the European Union single market.

As he rightly said: “Northern Ireland is in the unique position, not just in the United Kingdom but in the entire continent of Europe, of having privileged access to two markets.”

This begs the question: Why can’t Scotland have the same access?

Why should one part of the country have access to the single market where others cannot?

Scotland voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum by a considerably bigger margin than Northern Ireland, across every counting area.

Recent polls have suggested that more than 70% of Scots would vote to remain in the EU trading bloc if there was another referendum.

If we are all agreed to the advantages of single market membership, what is preventing Scotland from having access to this market on the same terms?

It is no secret that I – and the rest of the SNP – believe that the best place for Scotland to be is independent inside the European Union.

The UK Government has blocked democracy at every turn – when Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, when the Scottish Government has been elected on mandates to hold a referendum on independence, and when the UK Government passed the UK Internal Market Act to undermine devolved administrations and competencies.

So given the apparent success of these negotiations in Ireland, I wrote to the Prime Minster to ask that Scotland accede into the same arrangements.

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I believe that the Scottish Government was right back in 2016 when it published Scotland’s Place in Europe which stated that: “At the heart of the proposals in this document, and our proposals for any EU negotiations, we are determined to maintain Scotland’s current position in the European single market”.

It is a testament to the rotten state of UK democracy that even attempts by the Scottish Government to reach a compromise position, whereby Scotland’s express desire to remain in the European Union was acknowledged and respected, were sunk without due consideration.

Scottish businesses now face the huge twin disadvantage of both lost access to the EU single market, as well as a close neighbour with now frictionless intra-UK trade as well as access to the single market.

It is for the UK Government to explain to Scottish voters how the set of circumstances we’ve arrived in is democratic or acceptable – that two nations of the UK voted to leave, two voted to remain – and yet it is Scotland that has lost out completely whilst our democratic will has been cast aside.

Access to the single market would stimulate growth, ease the obvious trading difficulties that are being experienced across the country and go some way to address the democratic deficit in Scotland that has been caused by the Brexit referendum and events since.

The only surefire way to rejoin the single market is through independence in Europe – along with the benefits and responsibilities EU membership entails.

Only those powers can help Scottish businesses truly flourish.