THE PRESIDENT of the SNP has suggested that an independent Scotland in the EU could adopt the Northern Ireland Protocol model for the border with England.
Next week, Nicola Sturgeon will set out the Scottish Government’s routemap to holding a second independence referendum by the end of next year.
But questions remain over the border arrangements between an independent Scotland, with an ambition to become an EU member, and the rest of the UK.
Mike Russell, a former Scottish Government constitution secretary and current SNP president, has suggested that the post-Brexit trading arrangement between Great Britain and the island of Ireland is a model that would allow “seamless” trade if it was adopted between Scotland and England.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was established to deal with trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the only land border between the United Kingdom and the EU.
READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon accepts trade border ‘issues’ under independence plan
The protocol allows inspections of goods and document checks being done in the Irish Sea, at Northern Ireland’s ports, instead of the Irish border.
But the UK Government has suggested it wants to axe the arrangement, despite agreeing to it with the European Union.
Speaking to journalists, Mr Russell said he was “entirely happy” with the Scottish Government’s strategy to ensure a re-run of the 2014 referendum takes place, insisting he was “confident there will be a referendum”.
The SNP president insisted that “the relationship with Scotland to England would not involve a people border”.
Mr Russell added: “The aim would be to have a seamless border in terms of trade.
“There is a seamless border on the island of Ireland. Goods going across, it still seems (like) it’s a minor matter in terms of what exists elsewhere.
“I think there is every prospect of being able to enjoy a good and even better trading relationship.”
Last week, the First Minister said that if a similar arrangement could be drawn up “that would allow Scotland to continue to trade freely across the single market”, she would “take that in a heartbeat”
Mr Russell is also a president of the European Movement in Scotland.
Speaking at a European Movement in Scotland discussion, Mr Russell warned the impact of Brexit on the Scottish economy had been “under-estimated”.
He said that at Westminster, there needs to be a “focus on the arguments for re-joining» the European Union.
Mr Russell added: “One of the many disappointing things is the position of other Westminster parties who will not accept that rejoining should be part of the Westminster debate. They don’t even accept that being part of the single market and the customs union should be part of that.
“If those are not on the agenda, then we have a problem.
“What we need to do is focus on persuading our fellow citizens in Scotland and elsewhere that rejoining the EU is a legitimate political objective – to make sure people understand why that is the case.”
Pointing to Labour leader Keir Starmer and LibDems leader Ed Davey, Mr Russell warned “it’s not possible for them to dictate the terms of this”, warning “that is as big a mistake that (Boris) Johnson is making”.
He also pointed for Scottish Conservatives who campaigned against Brexit, to put pressure on the party to change its stance.
He said: “In 20216, there may have been three Tory MSPs who supported Brexit. Now you would think they are born-again Brexiteers who all supported it.
“There are a lot of people on those Tory benches who now realise, who have always realised, that it was wrong.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has insisted the constitution is a reserved issue no matter what “wheeze” the First Minister announces on her proposed route to a second independence referendum next week.
The UK Government minister said: “The first paper was what she called a scene-setter, I responded saying we’ve seen it all before.
“There was nothing new there, there may be new things to come forward. But our position is not to get engaged in constitutional wrangling with the Scottish Government.
“We want to focus on the people’s priorities, on inflation rising, on the cost of living challenge, on the war in Ukraine.
“Those are the issues we would like to focus on and we would like the Scottish Government to focus on their issues – failing schools, the backlog in the NHS or on Covid.”
Asked if a different wording of the proposed question on independence would change his mind, he said: “I’m going to cross that bridge when I come to it.
“I don’t know what wheeze she’s going to come up with on Tuesday but I’m very clear that the constitution, rather like Trident and our nuclear deterrent, these matters are reserved very clearly in the 1998 Scotland Act, they’re reserved to the Westminster Government.”