Scotland politics

Nicola Sturgeon confirms 'Norway model' option

Nicola Sturgeon committee
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon appeared before a special session of the committee conveners' group

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that the Scottish government is considering a Norway-style model for keeping Scotland in the EU single market.

The first minister told MSPs that the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and European Economic Area (EEA) models were being looked at.

The Scottish government is examining possible ways of maintaining Scotland's links with the EU.

BBC Scotland revealed on Tuesday that the EEA model had been floated.

The EEA includes the existing EU states in addition to EFTA members Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Membership offers access to the single market but members must make a financial contribution and adopt most EU legislation as well as the free movement of people.

Ms Sturgeon has said she will publish proposals in the coming weeks aimed at keeping Scotland in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves.

Addressing a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's conveners' group, Ms Sturgeon reiterated that her priority was to "maintain and protect our place in the single market".

She explained that this meant "membership of the single market, not some vague access to the single market."

Ms Sturgeon added: "I've set out very clearly I want the UK as a whole to stay in the single market and so to the extent that we can wield any influence UK-wide we will try to help steer the UK government away from a hard Brexit towards staying in the single market.

"But if the UK is intent on a hard Brexit and coming out of the single market, I want to look at how we could, and I'm not for a minute saying there wouldn't be challenges associated with this, but whether we could find a way of protecting Scotland's place in the single market.

"And of course models like EFTA, Norway is in EFTA, EFTA countries apart from Switzerland are also in the single market through the European Economic Area.

"So, of course, these are models that we're looking at and we will, as I've said previously, publish some proposals and an option, or perhaps different options, about how this could be achieved hopefully before the end of the year."

'Non-starter'

Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said the possibility of Scotland pursuing a separate Norway-style deal was a "complete non-starter".

He added: "On Tuesday, (Economy Secretary) Keith Brown appeared to accept this was the case, but now the first minister says it's back on the table.

"Academics have warned again that this proposal would be the worst of all worlds, trapping Scotland in an EU-wide pact over which we would have no influence, and cutting us off from our biggest and nearest market in the rest of the UK.

"It is time the first minister got real. The best way forward for Scotland is to take part in UK-wide negotiations."

Image caption Alex Salmond said SNP MPs could vote in favour of triggering Article 50 if the party's demands are met by the UK government

Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon's predecessor as first minister, Alex Salmond, has said the SNP could vote with the UK government to trigger the Brexit process if key "red line" demands for Scotland are met.

Speaking on his weekly LBC radio show, Mr Salmond said these would include Prime Minister Theresa May finding a solution that would allow Scotland to stay in the single market.

He said: "SNP MPs will put forward what the first minister has articulated in terms of Scotland's red lines. If the government accommodates these within the bill we could end up supporting it.

"If the government doesn't accommodate these within the bill, then we will seek to amend it, and we will seek to make that process for the government as uncomfortable as possible.

"If the government does not respond to Scotland's wishes... then of course we wouldn't be supporting the government."

He added: "I think the UK position could accommodate Scotland's wishes."

Commenting on Mr Salmond's remarks, Scottish Labour's Europe spokesman Lewis Macdonald said they formed part of a "chaotic week for the SNP".

He added: "This is a complete U-turn in the space of just ten days, as the SNP Brexit Minister Michael Russell said he could not imagine any circumstances in which the party's MPs would vote to start the exit process.

"Scottish Labour is clear: we support maintaining our relationship with our European neighbours and our place in the UK single market."

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