Nicola Sturgeon demanded a host of new powers including Holyrood control over immigration as she outlined her strategy to keep Scotland in the EU single market.
The First Minister said a radical more powers package was required when she launched the Scottish Government’s plans to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe.
The paper ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’ said a “fundamental reconsideration” of the UK’s constitutional arrangements was needed to support her strategy.
The first strand of Ms Sturgeon’s plan is for the Scottish Government to influence Theresa May’s government so that the UK remains in the single market through the European Economic Area (EEA) and the EU Customs Union.
Ms Sturgeon, however, acknowledged that doing so could prove immensely challenging and therefore presented her second strand, which was for Scotland to forge its own relationship with the EU while remaining in the UK.
Although senior UK Government figures have ruled out a separate Scottish EU deal as being totally impractical, Ms Sturgeon suggested Scotland could stay within the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves the EEA.
Scotland could become a full or associate member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
Commonly known as the “Norway option”, Ms Sturgeon’s paper said this would mean Scotland being party to the EEA agreement.
Despite suggestions to the contrary, Ms Sturgeon was adamant that such an arrangement would not lead to a hard border between Scotland and England.
With Scotland intending to operate a more liberal immigration policy than the Westminster government, Ms Sturgeon said checks on an individual’s legal right to work south of the border could be made at the point of employment or housing.
According to the First Minister, both options would need to be underpinned by a substantial transfer of power to Edinburgh.
Key areas to be considered for further devolution included: immigration; import and export control; competition law; social security and energy rights.
The paper said there would need to be repatriation of devolved matters such as agriculture, fisheries, education, aspects of health, justice and environmental protection which have been governed by EU law.
The paper went further calling for the repatriation of some areas which are currently looked after by Westminster including employment law and health and safety legislation.
Ms Sturgeon described the paper as a “compromise” given that her preferred option was for an independent Scotland within the EU.
But the paper itself added: “We recognise the reality that if Scotland is not an independent country and stays within the UK it will almost certainly have to leave the EU. However, by retaining membership of the European single market we can both mitigate the worst damage of leaving the EU and ease the transition to a full independence member state should the people decide to choose that future.”
Launching the paper at Bute House in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: “I hope and expect that the UK Government in considering these proposals will demonstrate the same flexibility and willingness to compromise.”
But Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson claimed the First Minister was using Brexit to further her independence cause.
Ms Davidson said: “We want the best Brexit deal for Scotland and that means the UK coming together to negotiate hard in the interests of all of us.
“Nicola Sturgeon talks about compromise, but written in black and white in her own report is her true intention – she wants independence in Europe.
“She has been using the Brexit issue to get to that point all along and the people of Scotland can see her manoeuvring for what it is.
“If she truly wants the best Brexit deal, she should be pulling together with other parts of the UK, not trying to split the country up.
“We cannot see how the SNP’s plans for a separate Scottish deal, or independence, will deliver that. Simply put, all the evidence shows that it would create a trade barrier at Berwick.
“That’s not just our view - it’s the view of industry leaders, academics and members of the SNP’s own hand-picked standing council of experts. Given that, it’s perhaps no surprise that today’s paper hasn’t been written by the experts, but by the SNP government itself.”
Ms Davidson added: “As with its own independence white paper, the SNP is simply putting forward evidence-free assertions.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “We welcome the publication of the Scottish Government’s paper and will give it careful consideration. We are engaging closely with all the devolved administrations through the JMC process and this contribution from the Scottish Government will feed into that constructive work.
“As we leave the EU, we are committed to securing a deal that works for all parts of the UK, including Scotland, and for the UK as a whole. The best way to achieve this is for all four governments to work together.”