Ire­land is­sue

Stur­geon ac­cused of “ex­ploit­ing” North­ern Ire­land’s trou­bles in quest for Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS FOCUS -

NICOLA Stur­geon has been ac­cused of “ex­ploit­ing” North­ern Ire­land’s trou­bled his­tory in a bid to boost sup­port for in­de­pen­dence.

Scot­tish Sec­re­tary David Mun­dell said Stur­geon had made “crass de­mands” for Scot­land to be “equated with North­ern Ire­land” in its re­la­tion­ship with the Euro­pean Union.

How­ever, an SNP spokesper­son hit back: “David Mun­dell play­ing pol­i­tics with North­ern Ire­land is just the lat­est ex­am­ple of the lack of re­spect the UK Gov­ern­ment has shown to the de­volved na­tions through­out these ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

The draft Brexit with­drawal agree­ment avoids a hard bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and Ire­land through a “back­stop” ar­range­ment agreed by the UK Gov­ern­ment and the EU.

The back­stop would re­quire the whole of the UK form­ing a sin­gle cus­toms ter­ri­tory with the EU, but North­ern Ire­land would fol­low the full EU cus­toms code, which would al­low busi­nesses to get their goods into the sin­gle mar­ket in the same way as cur­rently hap­pens.

In an ar­ti­cle last week, the First Min­is­ter wrote that North­ern Ire­land had been “guar­an­teed a spe­cial deal to stay close to the EU”.

She wrote: “Scot­land must not be left at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage when it comes to jobs and in­vest­ment, which is what of­fer­ing spe­cial sta­tus for North­ern Ire­land would do.

“We sup­port moves to pro­tect the Good Fri­day Agree­ment in Ire­land – but any dif­fer­en­tial deal for North­ern Ire­land sim­ply proves that sim­i­lar ar­range­ments can and should also be made for Scot­land.”

Mun­dell, in com­ments to a Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive gath­er­ing in Falkirk yes­ter­day, said the EU would not ac­cept an agree­ment that does not con­tain the back­stop.

On Stur­geon, he said: “We’ve all grown ac­cus­tomed to Nicola Stur­geon politi­cis­ing and ex­ploit­ing any is­sue for her po­lit­i­cal ends and fur­ther­ing her agenda of hav­ing an­other in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

“We’d seen it al­ready with Brexit – out of the traps on 24 June 2016 de­mand­ing an­other in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, but this week she reached a new low with her crass de­mands for Scot­land to be equated with North­ern Ire­land.”

He con­tin­ued: “It con­firmed that noth­ing is off lim­its now for Nicola Stur­geon – the sen­si­tiv­i­ties and unique cir­cum­stances of North­ern Ire­land, its ge­og­ra­phy, his­tory and cul­ture can be cast aside, if there is some op­por­tunis­tic po­lit­i­cal point to be made. The im­me­di­ate need to gen­er­ate some di­vi­sive griev­ance is pri­ori­tised, the sub­ject mat­ter sec­ondary to the in­de­pen­dence cause and the reper­cus­sions ig­nored.”

Mun­dell added: “Scot­land’s cir­cum­stances are noth­ing like those of North­ern Ire­land.

“Even the SNP used to ac­knowl­edge that, speak­ing out to have the Belfast Agree­ment up­held, but now none of that seems to mat­ter any­more, com­pared to the op­por­tu­nity for to­mor­row’s head­line, one more seed of divi­sion, one more step how­ever achieved on the road to in­de­pen­dence.

“We, and Scot­land need to be on no­tice – Scot­tish pol­i­tics just got a whole lot uglier. There is nowhere Nicola Stur­geon won’t go.”

The SNP spokesper­son added: “Des­per­ate David lost what lit­tle re­main­ing cred­i­bil­ity he had this week with these ridicu­lous com­ments. It’s no won­der even Scot­tish Tory MPs are queu­ing up to tell him to quit. We sup­port a dif­fer­en­tial deal for North­ern Ire­land in or­der to pre­vent a hard bor­der with Ire­land, but Scot­land shouldn’t be placed at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage as a re­sult.”

The im­me­di­ate need to gen­er­ate some di­vi­sive griev­ance is pri­ori­tised, the sub­ject mat­ter sec­ondary to the in­de­pen­dence cause

Scot­tish Sec­re­tary David Mun­dell has gone on at­tack to de­fend May’s Brexit deal

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