Brexit has created raft of problems for Scotland, government paper asserts
Brexit has limited economic growth, restricted trade, increased food costs and diminished opportunities for young people, according to a new paper published by the Scottish Government.
Released to mark the seventh anniversary of the referendum that led to the UK’s departure from the European Union, the report says that public opinion in Scotland – which did not back Brexit – has hardened in the years since and outlines some of the reasons why.
Overseen by constitution secretary Angus Robertson, the report collates a range of official statistics to show that the impact of Brexit includes: an expected loss of £3bn in public revenues every year; additional estimated costs of up to £600 per consignment for some shellfish exporters as a result of trade barriers; staff shortages in 45 per cent of tourism businesses in the Highland and Islands due to the loss of freedom of movement; and more costly and difficult travel arrangements due to border restrictions.
According to the report, the “democratic impact” of Brexit is that there have been “fundamental changes in the relationship between the governments and the parliaments at Westminster and Holyrood”.
“Instead of recognising the role of Scotland’s devolved democratic institutions and respecting their choices, or extending an approach based on agreement and consensus, the UK Government’s approach increasingly asserts Westminster’s authority over the Scottish Parliament and government,” it states.
It points to the UK Government’s intervention in Scotland’s now-shelved Deposit Return Scheme, which would have contravened the Internal Market Act, as an example of this.
It further states that Scotland is “poorer” due to Brexit and cites Office for Budget Responsibility figures to back that up.
“The Office for Budget Responsibility expects the UK’s GDP to be 4 per cent lower in the long run because of Brexit,” it says. “That equates to £3bn in lost public revenues for Scotland, each and every year.
“Research by the Centre for European Reform paints an even gloomier picture, finding that the UK’s GDP was 5.5 per cent lower by the second quarter of 2022 than if Brexit had not occurred.
“It also found that UK investment was 11 per cent lower and trade 7 per cent lower than it would have been without Brexit.”
It says the Scottish Government is attempting to mitigate these effects by, among other things, “working hard to foster ever-closer partnerships with our European neighbours”, with its offices in Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen and Dublin playing “a vital role” in that.
According to Robertson, the only way to fully mitigate the effect of Brexit is for an independent Scotland to be readmitted to the EU.
“Seven years after people in Scotland resoundingly rejected Brexit, the Scottish Government has published a paper that lays clear the damage it has inflicted,” he said.
“Brexit means Scotland has now left the world’s biggest single market and no longer enjoys freedom of movement, resulting in labour shortages across the NHS, agriculture, and our hospitality sector.
“Consumers and businesses continue to face a cost of living crisis driven by rampant food inflation, while produce rots in the ground, and obstructive trade barriers that are making it harder to import and export goods from the EU.
““Scotland’s rural and research sectors have lost out on hundreds of millions of pounds worth of EU funding, which the UK Government has been unable to match. A generation of young Scots have been deprived of life-changing exchange opportunities to study abroad.
“While we will continue to do all we can to mitigate this damage through our long-standing ties with European neighbours, the fact remains that the only way to meaningfully reverse this damage and restore the benefits Scotland previously enjoyed, is for an independent Scotland to rejoin the European Union.”