Alex Neil: time for SNP to drop EU membership

Written by Tom Freeman on 8 October 2017 in News

Exclusive: Independent Scotland in EU would face trade barriers with rUK, warns Former health and social justice minister Alex Neil

Alex Neil - Scottish Government

The SNP should drop its support for full EU membership and pursue independence in EFTA instead, former minister Alex Neil has said.

Writing for the next issue of Holyrood Magazine, Neil said the SNP should use its conference in Glasgow this weekend to rectify its mistakes since the 2014 indepenedence referendum.

“We must present a bold agenda for real change and make independence exciting again,” he said.


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Part of that, argued Neil, was to review its support for re-joining the European Union.

Research by National Centre for Social Research has suggested that over a third of SNP voters backed Brexit, with Alex Neil previously hinting other MSPs had joined him in voting leave.

Neil instead advocates membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which includes Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein and Switzerland.

Neil wrote: “An independent Scotland re-joining the EU would mean tariff barriers between Scotland and the rest of the UK – which would be out of the EU – not a position a majority of Scots are likely to endorse.”

“As an alternative to re-joining the EU, an independent Scotland should instead seek to become a member of both the European Free Trade Area and the European Economic Area – a position which is much more likely to win majority support and which would better reflect the new realpolitik in post-Brexit Europe.”

Nicola Sturgeon has suggested EFTA membership could be a more realistic goal in the short term.

Her predecessor as party leader Alex Salmond has also said EFTA membership could “be a prelude to full European membership in the future.”

In his Holyrood column, Neil also called for a bolder stance on taxation.

“Where additional tax needs to be raised, the emphasis should be firmly on taxing wealth, not the incomes of hard-pressed workers,” he said.

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