Charities welcome Scottish Government’s Brexit plan


Nicola Sturgeon said the proposals would protect Scotland from the worst impacts of leaving the EU

20th December 2016 by Gavin Stuart 1 Comment

Proposals to protect Scotland from the worst impacts of Brexit have been welcomed by charities.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the plans on Tuesday in response to what she said was the biggest threat in modern times to Scotland’s economic wellbeing.

The proposals, published in a paper called Scotland’s Place in Europe, call for the country’s continued membership of the European Single Market, retention of freedom of movement, and further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament.

Sturgeon said the paper represents a significant compromise on the part of her government, which believes full membership of the EU is the best option for Scotland and the UK.

She said: “A hard Brexit, taking us out of the EU and the single market, could have a devastating effect on jobs, investment and standards of living, with research suggesting up to 80,000 jobs lost in Scotland and earnings per head £2,000 lower after a decade.

“Today’s paper from the Scottish Government is aimed at avoiding that outcome. Scotland’s Place in Europe is a set of proposals that are detailed and serious, but given the Scottish Government’s belief that independence within the EU is the best option for Scotland, they are also a significant compromise on our part.”

The option of independence is still on the table, the first minister said, because of the constitutional change that Brexit represents.

However, she added, independence was not the focus of the paper she unveiled on Tuesday.

She said: “The proposals are designed to respect Scotland's voice and protect our national interests, and I expect when the UK government considers these proposals – as the prime minister has committed to do – it demonstrates the same flexibility and willingness to compromise.”

Scottish ministers have previously been told by third sector bodies that Brexit has the potential to be deeply damaging to the sector. Increased demand for services and the loss of millions of pounds of European funding mean the post-Brexit landscape could be bleak for many charities.

Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: “Throughout the EU referendum campaign and in its aftermath, Scotland's voluntary sector has continually stressed the importance of our deep-rooted connections with Europe and sister organisations across the continent.

“Beyond the often dry economic debate, SCVO and our members are painting a fuller picture of what Europe means in terms of charitable funding, world leading research, advancing human rights and equalities, cross-border learning, protecting our environment and freedom of movement.

“We believe it is crucial to safeguard the - often intangible - people element that membership of the EU has delivered. We welcome the Scottish Government's efforts to ensure Scotland remains an outward looking and integrated European nation as a way of creating a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”

Professor Alan Miller, of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, is a member of the Scottish Government’s standing council on Europe. He welcomed the paper’s emphasis on safeguarding and enhancing human rights in Scotland following Brexit.

Mr Miller said: “Indeed it is to be hoped that the UK government also commits to extending this approach of safeguarding and enhancing human rights and social protections so that nobody anywhere in the UK is left behind. This is a lesson for us all from the Brexit referendum”

Environmental charities have expressed concerns that Brexit could lead to the relaxation or scrapping of vital regulations designed to protect the natural world and tackle climate change.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “If we really are embarking on the risky adventure of leaving the EU then this is a good set of proposals which safeguard many of the benefits of our current European membership including environmental protections, free movement of people and consumer rules that protect us from harmful chemicals in food and other products.

“The vote to leave the EU is a huge challenge to decades of progress on improving the environment and working together to tackle climate change.”

Jonny Hughes, chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, added: "Regardless of the shape of any future Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union, the Scottish Wildlife Trust believes that, at a minimum, the body of environmental legislation so carefully developed over decades by the EU and transposed into Scottish law must continue to be implemented in Scotland by the Scottish Government.”

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland said: “Over the last 40 years, the European Union has significantly influenced the state of Scotland’s environment – both positively through regulations such as the Nature Directives and negatively through unreformed agricultural subsidies. 

“The outcomes that emerge from the coming negotiations, involving the Scottish and UK governments and the EU, have the potential to affect our environment and our wildlife for decades to come.”

A Downing Street spokesman said the UK government welcomed the paper and would look closely at it before discussions begin between Westminster and the devolved nations early next year.

21st December 2016 by Rose Burn

If the Scottish economy is estimated to lose 80,000 jobs over a decade because of Brexit, as the Scottish government paper forecasts, won't Scotland lose 320,000 jobs from leaving the UK as Scottish trade with the rest of the U.K. Is four times larger than Scotland's trade with the EU?