SNP minister accused of painting a “false picture” of Brexit

Mike Russell MSP was speaking during a visit to Brussels

The SNP’s Brexit Minister has been accused of painting a “false picture” of Scottish negotiations after the Spanish Government shot down claims he had opened talks with them.

Mike Russell made a number of contested claims to an audience in Brussels, including that “five million citizens… quite clearly said they do not want to give up their European citizenship” and that the only MSPs to back leaving the EU were four Conservative members.

The number of Scots who voted remain was 1.6 million, while former health secretary Alex Neil has publicly stated he supported Brexit and claimed as many as six fellow SNP MSPs did likewise.

Asked whether he has had contact with Spain, Mr Russell said: “I am not going to reveal everybody’s conversations, but I think you can take it that as intelligent people we would not be talking in these terms unless we were having conversations.”

A Spanish Government spokesman told The Press and Journal that Spain is not discussing any bespoke Scottish deal.

Conservative MEP Ian Duncan said: “We know that SNP MSP Alex Neil supported Brexit and that as many as six other SNP MSPs did likewise.

“Yet Mr Russell has gone to Brussels and tried to paint a completely false picture.

“As is typical of the SNP, when they think they can get away with telling complete untruths, they will always do so.

“Mr Russell also claims that a so-called Norway deal is ‘on the table’ – despite the fact that Norway’s own trade minister has ruled it out.

“The SNP is using Brexit to drive forward its unwanted case for independence. Mr Russell’s day-trip to Brussels has once again shown that this is a government which cannot be trusted to represent all of Scotland.”

A spokesman for Mr Russell said: “This is a ludicrous attack from the Tories – for them to ask anyone else to clarify their plans for Brexit is like a burglar demanding a homeowner clean up the house he has just ransacked.”