European Countries (Relationships)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th November 2022.

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Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to improve Scotland’s relationship with European countries and any benefits such initiatives can have to Scotland’s people, public services and businesses. (S6O-01546)

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Engaging with other European countries helps us to build relationships and unlock new economic and trading opportunities, and it helps to protect our interests in Europe, in the light of Brexit and other recent events ranging from the illegal war in Ukraine to the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis.

In May and June I visited Baden-Württemberg to promote the game-changing trade opportunities that are emerging in the renewables sector, and I visited Warsaw and Kraków to show solidarity and learn from their experiences of the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Our relationship with European countries matters when it comes to jobs, investment, export policy and cultural collaboration, and opportunities such as those are not taken advantage of by looking inward or staying at home.

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

The Tory and Labour parties do not seem willing to accept the economic and social consequences of Brexit, which they support. Following the ending of freedom of movement, many European Union nationals who were working in healthcare and social care have left the country, which is making it harder for people to get the support that they need. Does the minister agree that the only possible way that we can develop economic and immigration strategies that work for us, and rejoin the EU, is through Scotland becoming an independent country?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Yes, I do. As has been recognised across the Parliament, Scotland has its own distinct immigration requirements, which are different from those of the rest of the United Kingdom because all our future population growth is predicted to come from inward migration. The UK Government’s immigration policy fails to address Scotland’s distinct demographic and economic needs and completely disregards key sectors that were relied on during the pandemic.

We were elected with a clear democratic mandate to offer the people of Scotland a choice over Scotland’s future, and we committed to holding an independence referendum during this parliamentary session.

Photo of Emma Roddick Emma Roddick Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree that the most effective way of deepening relations with our closest European neighbours, while enhancing our position as a constructive partner on the world stage, is to offer people in Scotland the democratic choice of embarking on independence and restoring their status as citizens of the European Union?

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

There is no relevance to the question.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The member might not wish to hear it, but it is a debating point and there is broad relevance. I ask the minister to answer by focusing on the relevant bits.

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer. It certainly would not be for me to challenge the authority of the chair.

I absolutely agree with Emma Roddick; she is right. We have seen the folly of Brexit and the diminished role that the UK now plays on the world stage as a result. Scotland is respected for its work as a good global citizen and we want to continue our alignment with the rest of the EU, pending our readmission into the EU when we become an independent country.