Scotland politics

May: Brexit will 'enhance' Scotland's global standing

Theresa May Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mrs May said Scotland's financial services, shipbuilding and food and drink industries could be global leaders

Brexit will "enhance" Scotland's standing in the world rather than diminish it, Theresa May has said.

In a column in Holyrood magazine, the prime minister said the Brexit talks were an "exciting chance to forge a new role in the world".

Mrs May said Scotland's financial expertise, shipbuilding prowess and food and drink could be global leaders.

The SNP said this was "jaw-dropping hypocrisy", accusing her government of "chaos and confusion" over Brexit.

In June's EU referendum, Scottish voters backed Remain by 62%, leading Nicola Sturgeon's government to examine options to "protect Scotland's place in Europe".

However, Mrs May has pointed to potential advantages of leaving the EU, such as "getting a better deal for the UK abroad" - something she said could benefit Scottish industries.

'Globally renowned'

She said: "We will engage fully with and are willing to listen to options from the Scottish government as we formulate our negotiating position for leaving the EU. There should be no doubt - we will get a deal that works for us all.

"As we strike that deal, we have an exciting chance to forge a new role in the world. Scotland's status will not be diminished by that; it will be enhanced.

"We will go out into the world with the aim of being a leader in global free trade, one that makes the most of our advantages, from the financial expertise of Edinburgh to the shipbuilding prowess of the Clyde and the globally renowned food and drink produce of Scotland's countryside."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May met Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh the day after taking office as prime minister

Fishing leaders have previously told MSPs that their industry could show "world leadership" after Brexit.

Mrs May also mounted a defence of the United Kingdom, after Ms Sturgeon launched a "new conversation" on Scottish independence.

She said it had become clear in recent months that "the union which really matters to Scotland's future is its union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland", pointing to the fall in oil prices as an example of "the UK's broad shoulders".

She said: "Tax revenues from the North Sea collapsed, but funding for Scottish public services remained unscathed. That is how our union works: we share each other's successes when times are good, and shoulder each other's burdens when times are tough."

'Chaos and confusion'

However, Ms Sturgeon has warned that the UK could face a "lost decade" economically if the Brexit deal isolates the UK from the single market.

A spokesman for the SNP said Mrs May was "trying to pretend that Brexit is the best thing since sliced bread" despite having campaigned for Remain alongside many senior Tories who at the time claimed a Leave vote would diminish the UK's power and influence.

He said: "While we welcome any cooperation to ensure Scotland's status within the EU is protected, the rhetoric coming from some hard-line Brexiteers in Theresa May's cabinet has set alarm bells ringing and underlines the chaos and confusion in a government without a plan to get us through the turmoil they've created.

"Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon leads a strong and stable government with a mandate to grow our economy, create jobs and opportunities and explore all options to keep Scotland in the EU."

Image copyright PA
Image caption SNP MSP Alex Neil said Scotland could secure "neo-independence" by repatriating powers and funding from the EU

Meanwhile, Alex Neil, formerly a member of Ms Sturgeon's cabinet who has argued that Scotland should embrace the opportunities of Brexit, has said leaving the EU provides a "golden opportunity" to win new devolved powers for Holyrood.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Neil said it was "blatantly obvious the UK government hasn't got a clue about how or when to proceed with Brexit", urging the Scottish government to put forward a list of demands for the coming talks.

He said powers and funding could be repatriated from Brussels to Holyrood, rather than Westminster, as well as additional powers not previously devolved due to EU rules, such as full control over VAT.

Mr Neil said these powers would amount to "neo-independence", creating "the ideal platform for advancing to full sovereignty for the Scottish people in the early 2020s".

The Scottish Conservatives said Mr Neil's comments showed the SNP was "becoming increasingly chaotic" on the issue of a second independence referendum, calling on Ms Sturgeon to ease economic uncertainty by ruling out a fresh vote.

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