Brian Monteith: Sturgeon flounders as Single Market plan looks dead in the water

Nicola Sturgeon outlines her case for Scotland staying inside the Single Market. Picture: PA

Nicola Sturgeon outlines her case for Scotland staying inside the Single Market. Picture: PA

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Earlier this week our First Minister published her long-awaited paper on how Scotland should approach the “problem” of Brexit. In a nutshell her proposal is that Scotland should stay inside the European Union’s so-called “Single Market” but be outside its Customs Union.

Frankly this proposal has all the hallmarks of being too clever by half.

Former Lord Provost Councillor Eric Milligan. Picture: Greg Macvean

Former Lord Provost Councillor Eric Milligan. Picture: Greg Macvean

For a start, trying to explain in a few simple sentences to the Scottish public the important differences between a single market and a customs union and why being in one and not the other is going to be lost on most people who just will not have the time or inclination to listen.

Secondly it is not a solution for 
everyone for it still puts at risk the most important single market of them all – the United Kingdom’s Single Market (and its Customs Union) that is four times as important to our economy, jobs and prosperity.

So while Sturgeon’s proposal is being treated with courtesy it has effectively been dismissed as patently unworkable that must in time lead to a hard border between Scotland and England. There is a big difference between being inside the Single Market and having access to it. All we need (and are entitled to, just like the US or Japan) is having access. But if Scotland is inside the EU Single Market and the rest of the UK is outside it then the regulations that would determine goods and services in the two jurisdictions would diverge to the point of being significantly different.

The rest of the UK would be free to fix its own trade deals with India, China, and all the rest while Scotland would only be able to exist by the EU’s trade deals. Scotland would be the loser and a hard border would be inevitable – discouraging trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Without a border how could the EU be certain the rest of the UK was not trading “inside” the Single Market via Scotland? It couldn’t and would need Scotland to introduce border checks. It just doesn’t work.

Theresa May has already worked these little difficulties out and will be pointing out these inconvenient details for the next few months.

It will not be such a joyous Christmas in Bute House as the First Minister looks at the prospects for how she will use the looming Brexit to force an independence referendum that Scotland keeps telling her it does not want.

Politics can take many strange twists, but for Sturgeon her proposals represent the last throw of the dice for her attempt to stall Brexit or in turn create a grievance that will rile Scots enough for them to choose the rest of the EU over the rest of the UK. If she fails to deliver her own supporters will be taking her off their Christmas card list.

Eric talks sense . . . unlike Labour

After parking my (hire) car in Victoria Street and parting with the best part of a tenner (grr), I bumped into former Lord Provost Eric Milligan the other day and we ruminated about the state of the SNP government, Brexit and how to help Edinburgh prosper.

Not for the first time we found that although we start from different departure points we have much common ground.

Labour could do with some Milligan sagacity in Holyrood but the party has its finger firmly stuck on the self-destruct button and is destined to suffer in next year’s council elections. It is repeating many of the mistakes the Tories made in the 80s – and just look how long it has taken them to recover in Scotland.

I need a holiday to recover from the ‘holidays’

I AM up against the clock this Christmas! I had everything all nicely organised, set a day aside to do all my shopping, knew where I was going and what I was buying for who – when my car wouldn’t start.

It had a good battery and a full tank of fuel (my normal problems) so the RAC came out. It still wouldn’t start so they sent a truck to tow it for an emergency repair nearby. It needed a new fuel pump!

So I then had to arrange the hire car, transfer all of Santa’s presents from one car to the other then pick up the missus to take her for dinner.

Needless to say I never managed any shopping at all. Now I’m desperately trying to rearrange my diary to make time to get those presents I had listed, collect the Christmas groceries and cook the meals for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Hopefully by then my new fuel pump will have been fitted. Whatever people want to call the Christmas period the word “holiday” should not be part of it. Bah, humbug!

I’d love to have an offal Christmas

Recipes for my Magnus Opus (or should that be Magnus Offal?) have been coming in from near and far recently, including milk-fed Calves Entrails (a Roman dish); stewed Bull’s Tail (Rabo de Toro from Spain); and the quaint sounding, Duck’s Blood Soup (from Poland).

The best offal meal I had recently was in a Calais café last Friday when my wife and I each had Roasted Marrow Bone as a starter. There were three muckle bones on our plates and the marrow was just beautiful spread across toast with a little salt and pepper.

Escaping the “traditional” Turkey on Christmas Day will be impossible as I am always outvoted, but I hope to have an offal Christmas next year by which time I will have perfected an offal dessert dish that will surprise people and go with the offal starter and main.

Until then, Merry Christmas to all Evening News readers.