What is Scotland's future in a post-Brexit Europe?

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has argued it would be possible for Scotland to remain in the European Union, even if the rest of the United Kingdom did not.

Jeff J. Mitchell/Reuters/File
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon speaks as she officially opens the revamped Kilmarnock campus of Ayrshire College in Kilmarnock, Scotland on Dec. 12, 2016.

In the six months since the Brexit, there have been rumors of an impending divorce between Scotland and the United Kingdom, as many Scottish citizens wish to remain in the European market.

Now, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says that there could be a better way: either Scotland could remain in the European Union, or the rest of the UK could remain in the single market, despite the results of June’s Brexit votes.

"I accept that there is a mandate in England and Wales to take the UK out of the EU. However, I do not accept that there is a mandate to take any part of the UK out of the single market," said Minister Sturgeon, according to the BBC.

"It would make no economic sense whatsoever for the UK to leave the single market. It would be entirely democratically justifiable for the UK to remain within it."

June’s Brexit vote saw Scotland vote to remain in the EU, even as the majority of the UK voted to leave. Scotland is expected to lose as many as 80,000 jobs if it leaves the single market, Sturgeon said.

"The Scottish people did not vote for Brexit, and a 'hard Brexit' would severely damage Scotland's economic, social and cultural interests," wrote Sturgeon in the proposal, according to STV News. "It will hit jobs and living standards – deeply and permanently. That is why we are so determined to avoid it."

Although Sturgeon says that she does not think that the UK must leave the European single market, despite the vote to leave the EU, she told the BBC that she has accepted that a total Brexit is the most likely option.

In that case, however, there is no reason that Scotland itself shouldn’t stay in the single market, she says.

Sturgeon said this week that she does not wish to prioritize trade with either the United Kingdom or the European Union. She added that, in any case, it doesn’t make sense for the United Kingdom to cease trade with Scotland, as it hasn’t with the Republic of Ireland.

"Talk of a hard border for Scotland has always rung hollow from a UK government that says no such hard border will be required between a post-Brexit UK and the Republic of Ireland, a continuing member of the EU," said Sturgeon, according to the BBC.

It is unclear how the UK government will respond to Sturgeon’s proposals. "We are engaging closely with all the devolved administrations through the [joint ministerial committee] process and this contribution from the Scottish Government will feed into that constructive work," a government spokesperson said, according to STV News.

"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."

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