Labour and the SNP are both demanding the Scottish Government have a role in the UK’s Brexit talks, with Jeremy Corbyn insisting: “We are clear that the voice of the Scottish people must be heard.”
A year after the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU), both Mr Corbyn and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pressed the UK Government to give the devolved administrations a greater say in negotiations.
Ms Sturgeon, the SNP leader, claimed so far Scotland and Northern Ireland – which both voted to remain part of the EU – had been “disregarded” by Tories at Westminster as they pursued “a reckless drive to impose an extreme Brexit”.
Writing in the Sunday Herald newspaper, Ms Sturgeon said leaders from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had “often been left frustrated by high-handed actions of Whitehall ministers who seem unwilling to accept there are now four national governments in the UK”.
After the Tories lost their Commons majority in the snap general election, the First Minister said Theresa may and her government must recognise the reality of devolution and meet its constitutional obligations.
She stated: “As a first step there should be a meeting of the UK and devolved governments to decide objectives before the next cycle of negotiations with the EU in July. And there must be a commitment to take seriously and act upon, the interests of Scottish businesses, universities and a range of other groups becoming increasingly alarmed at the way Brexit is being handled.”
The First Minister continued: “There has been genuine astonishment from EU partners that the UK Government had not consulted Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland before publishing the Article 50 withdrawal letter. This kind of attitude needs to change and I hope it will.”
Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn said Labour was “clear that the voice of the Scottish people must be heard – and the same goes for the other devolved administrations”.
Writing in the same paper, he added: “The EU will only negotiate with the British government. But Scotland needs a clear input into the Brexit negotiating process.
“The Scottish Government must have regular and systematic access to the British negotiating team so that the Scottish perspective, especially in those areas for which the Scottish Parliament is responsible, is fully taken into account.”
But he also said such engagement must be a “two-way street”, saying the Scottish Government should regularly share the details of its dialogue with Westminster “with the Scottish people through the Scottish Parliament and the other political parties in Scotland”.
While the Scottish Government continues to press for both Scotland and the UK to remain in the single market after Brexit – something which has been rejected by Whitehall ministers – Mr Corbyn said “Labour’s Brexit team would seek continued tariff-free access to the single market, with no new non-tariff burdens for British business”.
He stated: “Of course, Brexit is going to be difficult and the negotiations will be challenging. But with the right approach and negotiating plan, I am convinced we can negotiate a new relationship with the EU that works for all our people, not just a privileged few.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson wrote in the Sunday Herald that the UK needs “to up our game in ensuring that Britain intends to remain a key partner to our friends and allies across the continent”.
She said Britain should “as a priority, maintain the free trade of goods and services across the continent – in the knowledge that it is commerce and trade which does more to promote peace and prosperity than anything else”.