Scotland’s pro-EU consensus was shattered last night after Labour accused the SNP of trying to bounce Holyrood into backing independence.
Kezia Dugdale’s party had initially supported Scottish Government efforts to keep the country’s ties with the continental block in the wake of the June 23 poll.
But in a dramatic Holyrood vote yesterday, Labour MSPs refused to support the SNP, believing their motion could be used to pave the way for a second referendum.
It is understood Scottish Labour wanted the wording of the motion changed to reflect support for “access” to the single
market – but the SNP refused to budge from their demand for “continued membership”.
Labour MSPs hope that it could be possible for Scotland to have access to the single market while remaining in the UK, but that “continued membership” would require the country to back independence.
The debate – which ended in an SNP victory with the support of the Scottish Greens – came amid suggestions that Scots could be offered special passports to allow continued access to the continental block, even if the rest of the UK decides to end free movement.
The measure is one of a number being considered by academics as Scotland continues to form its response to the EU referendum.
Reports also emerged yesterday suggesting Scottish ministers were considering attempting to get Scotland into the European Economic Area after the UK leaves the EU.
The so-called Norway model includes membership of the single market – as well as free movement of people – but does not give the member decision-making powers within the continental block.
Outlining her party’s position, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “I am genuinely disappointed that the SNP appear to want to break the consensus on this issue.
“I believe we should get the very best deal possible for Scotland – and I support the Scottish Government in so doing.
“But the SNP want continuing membership of the single market, but don’t tell us how this would be achieved.
“In truth, membership of the single market requires membership of the European Union.
“Scotland would need to be an independent country and would then need to apply to join the EU as a new member state.”
But Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown accused Labour – who abstained on the vote – of reneging on their earlier commitment to support the government’s efforts to maintain Scotland’s relationship with
He added: “Given the importance of single market membership to Scottish trade, it is not surprising to me that there is a broad consensus among economists – as there is indeed among actors in the economy in Scotland – that any relationship with the EU short of full membership risks increasing barriers to trade and reducing exports.”
Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser demanded the SNP spell-out exactly what deal they wanted with the EU.
He said: “We are still no clearer as to what exactly the Scottish Government is asking for.
“They talk about membership of the single market, but they must know that concept simply does not exist separately from membership of the EU.
“What exactly are the SNP looking for?”