In the Brexit frenzy, countless coverage has been given to Westminster politicians and their Brexit bashing and praising views, but relatively little of those voices are from those in Holyrood.
Over the past few weeks, a number of Scottish MSPs from each political party spoke exclusively to Brig about their thoughts on how the Brexit negotiations have been handled so far, and the impact leaving the EU may have on the Scottish population as the clock strikes Brexit.
Scottish National Party (SNP)
Derek Mackay, a leading SNP figure serving as the Finance Secretary of Scotland, spoke of his frustration that Scotland faces leaving the EU even though it overwhelmingly voted for Remain.
“Our interests are being ignored by a UK Government that wants to take Scotland out of the European Single Market, which is eight times the size of the UK alone.
Mackay is deeply worried about the “severe impacts” Brexit will potentially have on the economy and is concerned that it may “push the Scottish economy into a deep recession, similar in scale to the financial crash of 2008.”
“The economic harm of Brexit will be exacerbated if the UK Government decides to crash out of the EU without a deal. Such an outcome, which the Prime Minister refuses to rule out, represents a clear and present danger to Scotland’s economy.”
Murdo Fraser, a leading Scottish Conservative MSP who is currently the Shadow Cabinet Secretary of Finance talked about inside the Scottish parliament as we approach the Brexit deadline.
“There is undoubtedly increasing concern, both at Holyrood and across the wider country, not least in the business community, that we could be heading for a no deal Brexit.
“The reality is that , without a deal being agreed, we will end up with no deal which would be deeply damaging.”
Fraser said he felt Theresa May had a “thankless task” in trying to negotiate the withdrawal deal as all parties have continued to pile pressure whilst having their own motivations.
“The Prime Minister has tried to steer a middle course which delivers on the outcome of the EU Referendum whilst maintaining close links with the EU27. I believe that she has been operating in the wider national interest but has been opposed on all sides by those taking a narrow, partisan view.”
Fraser believes that it is important for us to continue having a relationship with the EU as it is allows “opportunities for study and travel throughout Europe.
“It is encouraging that in the recent discussion paper on immigration produced by the UK Government, the right for non-UK citizens to work here post-study is being proposed. A no deal Brexit could threaten these opportunities, which is why I believe that a deal is essential.”
Richard Leonard has been leader of Scottish Labour since 2017 and has been critical of how Theresa May has handled Brexit.
“After two years of failed negotiations the Prime Minister still has no credible plan to deliver a Brexit deal that would ensure there are enough jobs, in a stable economy, for you when you leave university.
“Instead, Theresa May is trying to run down the clock so that the only options become her deal or no deal. We don’t accept this false choice, which is why we’ve said she should rule out a no-deal Brexit, as it would be disastrous for Scotland.”
Leonard’s preference over what happens next would be a general election and in terms of Brexit, was supportive of Jeremy Corbyn’s five-point plan put forward to the Prime Minister which he described as “sensible proposals to break the Brexit impasse.”
“We have put forward the building blocks of an alternative deal that puts jobs, the economy and the environment first, and importantly brings the country together after years of instability and division.”
Ross Greer, a Scottish Green MSP for the West Scotland region spoke about the concern within Holyrood at how negotiations had played out so far.
“There is a collective sense of horror at Holyrood at the car-crash playing out at Westminster and the genuinely devastating effects it might have on the people we represent if Brexit goes ahead in any form.”
Greer pinned a lot of the blame on the Prime Minister, claiming that Theresa May “will likely go down as the most incompetent Prime Minister in modern history.
“She is cripplingly indecisive, constantly plays for time despite the fixed timescale of this process, systematically alienates sympathetic voices in Europe and has been utterly unable to get a handle on the Brexiteer extremists in the Tory parliamentary party and the Cabinet.”
He shared concerns about the impact that Brexit could have on younger generations.
“Students in particular benefit colossally from European freedom of movement.
“Students will likely be some of the worst affected, given the minimal incomes that many are on. Any economic downturn will result in jobs being lost in the industries that many students work in.”
But he believes that the impact Brexit might have on universities will in turn damage society on the whole.
“Everyone benefits from the European funding which our colleges and universities receive and from the thousands of staff who come from elsewhere in Europe to contribute to Scottish higher and further education.
“Losing all of that will make us more isolated and will harm the world class status of our universities in particular.”
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Scottish Lib Dems leader Willie Rennie spoke to Brig in an exclusive interview last week. He was highly critical of how Brexit withdrawal negotiations had been handled and claimed “students are the ones who will lose most from withdrawing from Europe.”
Rennie is deeply concerned about the effects Brexit will have on students in regards to the Erasmus scheme and the European research area.
“It’s going to have an impact on students who want to go on and do research and that will also have an impact on funding for universities which will in turn impact every other part of education and student life.”
The North-East Fife MSP believes that the Prime Minister deserves “credit for resilience” but said she has “a lack of sensitivity and agility to build up relationships” in the withdrawal negotiations.
Rennie backs the People’s Vote, a campaign to give the public a second referendum on Britain leaving the EU. He believes that the British people should have the final vote on what happens with Brexit.
“I think it might be the way to break the logjam because the House of Commons is incapable of reaching a conclusion because it’s as split as the country.”