Tele column – 31st March 2017

On Wednesday Theresa May (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) triggered Article 50. This sets in motion the process by which the United Kingdom shall leave the European Union. The agreed timescale is 24 months but at this moment nothing else is agreed.

First the UK Government must agree an agenda with the EU and then they must negotiate the UKs exit. This throws up a multitude of constitutional questions and a myriad of trade and legal implications. As Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister of Scotland) said on Tuesday, “we do know that the change will be significant and profound.” But, “When the nature of the change made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, it should not be imposed upon us. Let me be clear. I want the UK to get a good deal from these negotiations – whatever path Scotland takes in the future, that is in our interests. I simply want Scotland to have a choice when the time is right.” And that to me is at the heart of any future debate.

The UK voted to leave the EU, Scotland did not. Once we know the terms and conditions that are going to be imposed on Scotland, the people of Scotland must have the democratic right to choose the path they want for their country. But first we must know what effect leaving the EU will have on local businesses, on tourists arriving on cruise ships, on students studying abroad, on Scots living in EU countries and on EU immigrants living in Scotland. Over the next two years or so we will have that debate and as the First Minister said “let us start today as we mean to go on – positively, passionately and respectfully”.