Nicola Sturgeon quizzed on Scottish border by Guru-Murthy
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Kevin Foster, Conservative MP for Torbay, said on his trip to Scotland there would need to be a “great wall of Gretna” if Scotland voted “Yes” in a second independence referendum and opted to join the European Union. The Home Office minister suggested that, if Scotland signed up to the Schengen agreement, a Brussels-based scheme that enables free travel without passport checks between EU member states, Holyrood would need to establish a hard border between England and Scotland.
Speaking to journalists in Linlithgow, West Lothian, Foster said: “If they [the SNP] wanted Scotland to join Schengen that does mean a hard border, it means building a great wall of Gretna.”
The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, struggled during the recent Scottish Parliament elections to explain how Scotland could be a part of the EU and not erect a border with a neighbouring country outside of the Single Market.
And the border question appears to be a salient issue in the minds of Scottish voters.
Previous polling conducted by Survation found Scots were less likely to support independence if there was a risk of erecting a hard border with England.
Foster said that it was time supporters of Sturgeon’s party started “being upfront about the impact of some of their policies”.
The immigration minister was also quick to dismiss calls in Scotland for more powers over immigration to be devolved to Holyrood.
“We’re very clear that we need to have a migration system that works for the whole of the United Kingdom,” said Foster.
And Foster was not shy to attack the SNP’s persistent focus on the independence issue.
He said: “We’re coming out of an extraordinary period of a pandemic, the first to hit the UK of this nature for a century, our minds really should be focused on recovery, getting people back to work, and dealing with the many impacts we know there is going to be of the pandemic.”
It has been estimated that 60 percent of Scottish exports go to the rest of the UK. This is more than three times the value of the goods exported to the EU.
It is believed establishing a border between England and Scotland would create economic difficulties for companies on either side of the border.
Nonetheless, the SNP has pushed for a second independence vote in Scotland as soon as next year.
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Supporters of independence have been quick to question Foster’s assertion.
Dr Kirsty Hughes, former director of the Scottish Centre on European Research, told pro-independence newspaper The National: “It’s simply scaremongering to talk about ‘great walls’ between England and Scotland.”
She added: “Brexit has certainly put trade barriers between Britain and the EU which add costs and bureaucracy but while Brexit has damaged trade, there still is EU-UK trade, there’s no ‘great wall’ between England and France or the Netherlands.”
Given the necessity for the UK and EU to agree to the Northern Ireland Protocol, this does not explain how, if Scotland was to join the EU, it would be the only member state not to need to establish border checks with a neighbouring nation that is not a part of the continental bloc.
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