Golden opportunity to seize Brexit agenda for the good of Scotland – SNP MSP


As we still await a coherent move from the UK Government on Brexit, Alex Neil MSP urges the Scottish National Party to seize the initiative and set a clear and ambitious Scottish agenda on the issue

Alex Neil MSP
Alex Neil MSP

Three months on from the EU referendum it is blatantly obvious the UK Government hasn’t got a clue about how or when to proceed with Brexit.

Theresa May’s Cabinet can’t even agree amongst themselves what their definition of Brexit is, as witnessed by their contradictory statements on the future relationship between the UK and the European Single Market.

The Scottish Government has therefore got a golden opportunity, which it should not let slip, to fill the void by putting Scotland’s Brexit demands at the top of the UK/EU negotiations agenda and doing so now.

Rather than wait until Theresa May eventually gets her act together, the Scottish Government should immediately publish its “List of Scottish Demands” for the Brexit negotiations.

Don’t wait for Whitehall. Set the agenda now. Force the UK Cabinet to acknowledge Scotland’s priorities. Preempt any attempt by the UK Government to place unacceptable limitations on Scotland’s Brexit ambitions.


Top of the list of Scottish demands should be the transfer of the powers being repatriated from Brussels, as they relate to Scotland, to the Scottish Parliament; not Westminster

All the powers relating to existing devolved matters, such as farming and fishing, should automatically transfer to Edinburgh. Brexit also provides the ideal opportunity to devolve all the other powers currently controlled by Brussels to the Scottish Parliament.

This would include powers currently exercised by the EU covering employment laws and workers’ rights, environmental protection, social policy, consumer protection, certain aspects of transport policy, some aspects of energy policy, public health matters, and certain aspects of justice and home affairs policies as well as external affairs.

Finally a range of other powers which haven’t been devolved to Scotland because of EU rules should also be transferred to Edinburgh. The most important of these would be giving the Scottish Parliament full control over Value Added Tax (VAT).


Until now the UK Treasury has argued that VAT couldn’t be devolved because the EU wouldn’t allow rate variations within a member state. After Brexit this excuse is no longer valid. VAT could easily be transferred in toto to Edinburgh.

The UK Leave Campaign’s promise during the referendum that if the UK voted for Brexit then Scotland would get control over immigration policy must also be honoured and included in Scotland’s List of Demands.

The second item on Scotland’s List of Demands should be the transfer of all the funding associated with these new powers mentioned above, including Scotland’s share of the UK annual contributions to the EU budget, itself estimated by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre to be worth around £800 million a year net of all the funding Scotland currently gets from the EU.

With this money, post-Brexit the Scottish Government could continue to finance all the projects currently supported by the EU in Scotland to the same level of funding as at present and still have another £800 million per annum or so left over to invest as we choose.

The accumulation of all these new powers and finances would bring about “neo-Independence” for Scotland, creating the ideal platform for advancing to full sovereignty for the Scottish people in the early 2020’s.


The third key item on Scotland’s List of Demands must be continuing access to the benefits of the European Single Market. Eleven per cent of all goods and services sold furth of Scotland every year go to the EU.

These exports support many thousands of jobs in Scotland that we can’t afford to lose; so retaining both free access to this market along with the other benefits of the single market, such as “passporting” for our financial sector, is essential.

Scotland should continue to benefit from the free movement of people between Europe and Scotland. The crucial role played by people from Europe and elsewhere in the world in staffing some of our key industries such as tourism, agriculture and horticulture has to be protected. There is no reason why Scotland shouldn’t be able to implement its own immigration policy which would allow free movement to continue.

The UK Government would find it difficult to refuse these demands, if Scotland plays its cards right.

To help ensure our demands are met, the Scottish Government should organise a “Brexit Coalition” of the nations and regions of the UK. Such a Coalition could form a shared platform of key demands that the nations and regions need to be met from Brexit and force Theresa May to reach a deal which is as acceptable to them as it is to her.

This article is also published by The Telegraph online.


  1. Totally agree that SG should make these demands.

    Unlikely we will get them, but it will be political grist to our mill if we don’t. The political mileage we could make out of Westminster’s refusal would convince many No voters that independence is the logical outcome. Foresee the farming lobby preferring to get their subsidies from UK though, seeing as they are a bunch of Tories afraid of land reform. Fishermen might be more hopeful suppoorters of direct aid from Holyrood since most UK fishing is in Scotland anyway.

    Hoist them by their own petard: ‘taking back control’ means Scotland taking back control.

  2. Pointless. We voted to stay in the Eu. We do not start playing along with what England voted for. It’s full Eu citizenship and that requires independence.

    • Entering into discussions on brexit is the first irreversible step to leaving the EU and cementing the union with uk.

      No to brexit negotiations they are a dead end to misery and continued subjugation!

      Yes to Indy Ref 2, it puts Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands!

  3. Put the pressure on…..ask for something that you know you won’t get, then bingo, you get what you really want…

  4. I disagree with Big Jock.

    Mr Neill is right: “Sieze the time!”.

    And, to deploy another cliche: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. While Scotland did, indeed, vote substantially, to remain within the EU, as things currently stand, we are part of the U.K., and we have to recognise that and manoeuvre to shape things in a favourable way. Accumulating real powers, such as over fisheries, in Holyrood, is as well done now rather than waiting for post independence bargaining.

  5. I read this as being part of the “explore every option” commitment the FM made the day after Brexit. The SG must be seen to be doing this, so that when every other option fails, another independence referendum is the only option left.

    Alex Neil is completely correct in making the other options as difficult as possible for Westminster to accept and so ensuring their failure. He’s a canny man.

  6. Why not go for it?
    The Tories and their media puppets continually exhort Scotland to “join” with Westminster on Brexit, and to put our wishes/needs on the table.
    So, go for it. Put these demands and anything else we can think of ( the BBC springs to mind, but really its anything and everything),initially to a conference with Wales and N Ireland and INSIST we also get “OUR COUNTRY BACK”—-just the same as England.

  7. I have to say in all honesty since when in the history of Scotland has Westminster ever listened to anything Scotland has to say except if it wants to steal an idea and claim it as their own or use an idea to undermine Scotlands position and Alex should know that better than the rest of us

    To inform the UK government of Scotlands needs or desires is to load the gun they’ll shoot us with
    Has everyone just had a memory bypass of who we’re dealing with here
    Since this debacle over the EU started has anyone heard one word of how UK government intends to proceed so why give them clues as to how to do it and then use it against us, and they will

  8. I agree with Big Jock. Keep things simple. If we are seen to be playing along with Brexit then we will get the usual perfidy from Westminster.

    We want as a minimum to stay within the single market. That should be the focus since it will give Scotland huge leverage in comparison with an England that doesn’t have any idea where it is going. All that Alex Neil suggests should come our way would probably be offered as a bribe a la Vow anyway.

    As for the farmers and the fishermen, don’t expect any friends there. I heard the other day about Jamie Buchan of Amity fame in the ‘Trawlermen’. He is a Tory and nothing more.

  9. I don’t trust WM to deliver anything for Scotland unless there is a real prospect of us walking away from their union.
    The fishermen should be careful what they wish for.
    The UK does not have the capacity to police any restrictions so it will be a free for all and another boom and possibly permanent bust for the industry.
    Tories only think of short term gains.
    Scottish farmers depending on handouts from London.
    Good luck with that.
    Perhaps,even Scottish Tories may eventually realise that sticking with England’s union is going to cost them real money and decide independence is a better option.
    Interesting ideas from Alex,time will tell.

  10. Scotland’s demands are meaningless, have been since at least 1707. Might be better for the 56 SNP MPs to resign en-bloc forcing by-elections which they could contest on a indy/indyref2 + pro-EU ticket.

  11. I fully agree with Bic Jock, I must say.

    On the 23rd of June 2016 Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, by nothing less than 62% in favour to remain against 38% to leave the EU. I think it would be extremely unfair to the 62% to honour the 38% instead by accepting leaving the EU. No, I think that is wrong as that is telling the people of Scotland that it doesn’t matter what they vote because it will be ignored or the result inverted to the convenience of another country.

    The vote of the people of Scotland must count for something and it is high times that Scotland is starting to be considered for what it is: a devolved (although not enough) country within a Union and not simply a region within a country.

    As for negotiating some sort of deal with Westminster I would say that in my opinion that is as its best wishful thinking. After a recent article in the Guardian (‘UK government must disclose legal arguments in Article 50 procedure’, by Owen Bowcott), it very much looks like May’s previous smiles and nice talk about including Scotland in the negotiating table was a massive bag of hot air. According to that article, government lawyers dismiss the idea that the devolved nations, including Scotland, will have any say in the process.

    So there we have it, never mind that Scotland’s financial, social and infrastructural needs are different from those of England and that Scotland’s future is being jeopardised by a brexit it didn’t vote for and by the negotiations in the hands of a government to whom Scotland didn’t give a mandate to. The truth is that Scotland will not be given the chance to speak up and participate in the decisions affecting its future. So what are the remote changes that we could ‘negotiate’ anything? None I should think, so why bother?

    I agree with Big Jock and with Alf Baird: the UK government is not to be trusted, they have proved this to us time and time again. So stuff Brexit: Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and therefore it should remain in the EU, with the full fat membership. If the only way of achieving it is by achieving independence first, so be it.

    What I strongly disagree with Alf Baird though is the fact he favours the SNP MPs resigning in block and then claim by-elections. That would be a wet dream for the unionist parties. No way. The only by elections I look forward to see are the ones in all those constituencies that are under investigation due to Tory electoral funding fraud. Anyone knows how those investigations are going? Are we going to found out before the 5 year term of this UK government if fraud was committed or not?

  12. I will automatically disregard anything that was published in the Scotland hating Torygraph with its Imperialistic Brit Nat divide and rule agenda.

  13. In Scotland voting counts for nothing. The people’s wishes are disregarded and trampled underfoot. This is the way of that it is, and there is hardly a nation on the planet that has escaped the clutches of the British state save at the point of a gun. And now that’s the hatred and xenophobia of foreigners is being openly laid bare for all to see as Tory ministers call for lists to be made of those who are perceived as underclass. Like 1930’s Germany it stared with the Jews, but didn’t stop there. , We ignore this at our peril.


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