European Union Withdrawal (Relationships with Non-EU Countries)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th March 2021.

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Photo of Gordon Lindhurst Gordon Lindhurst Conservative

4. I enter into the spirit of the afternoon’s proceedings by also wishing the cabinet secretary—indeed, everyone—all the very best for the future.

To ask the Scottish Government what impact the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union has had on Scotland’s relationships with countries outwith the EU. (S5O-05125)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I thank Mr Lindhurst, and I wish him well, too.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU has undoubtedly posed challenges to Scotland’s ability to engage closely with international partners, whether directly or through arrangements that have been agreed by the EU. Despite that, the Scottish Government stands firm in its outward-looking and values-based approach. We will continue to strengthen our international relationships within the EU and beyond, to work ever more collaboratively with others on the challenges that face our post-Covid world, to increase our international trade and investment activity and, ultimately, to achieve our overarching objective of sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Scotland.

Photo of Gordon Lindhurst Gordon Lindhurst Conservative

We need to recognise the benefits that we have already seen—for example, the United States Government’s recent lifting of tariffs on many goods, which should result in millions of pounds from exports of cashmere and of cheese and other delicacies. Will the cabinet secretary commit the Scottish Government to working positively to benefit the whole of Scotland from the advantages that have already been seen?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Gordon Lindhurst should differentiate between the removal of trade tariffs that were imposed because of a trade dispute—thus, the reversion to the previous situation—and the question whether there are any benefits in becoming a third country outside the EU. The answer is that there are no such benefits; there are no such benefits for Scotland and, actually, there are no such benefits for the UK. Although I admire the member’s optimism, I do not agree in any sense with his accuracy.

Photo of Richard Lyle Richard Lyle Scottish National Party

Having known Mike Russell for many years, I also wish him well.

A close relationship between the UK and the EU is in everyone’s interests. Will the cabinet secretary join me in calling on the UK Government to take a more co-operative approach to its relationship with the EU in order to develop better outcomes for people in Scotland and across the UK?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Richard Lyle makes a very sensible point. I have written to Lord Frost about that matter just this weekend. I do not know whether the response will come before I finally leave Parliament, or come in anything other than the usual dismissive terms, but there is no doubt that the way in which the business is being conducted by him and by Boris Johnson is counterproductive and damaging.