SNP candidate blasted for claiming Scotland-UK border could create jobs

Emma Harper, who is standing in Galloway and West Dumfries, was accused of ignoring the relationship with the country’s biggest trading partner when quizzed over the consequences of breaking up Britain. It came as her boss Nicola Sturgeon said another independence referendum would “probably” already have happened if it had not been for the Covid pandemic despite Boris Johnson’s veto. The SNP leader twice requested a formal Section 30 Order from the Prime Minister and his predecessor, Theresa May, in the last parliament.

Ms Sturgeon is pushing to win an SNP majority in May’s Holyrood election, with her campaign centred on holding another separation poll.

The 2014 White Paper’s prospectus for a “soft” independence, with Scotland continuing to have an open border with England and unrestricted access to the UK internal market, has been undermined by Brexit.

And Ms Sturgeon has previously conceded a hard border could be enforced if Scotland was in the European Union but the rest of the UK was not.

Trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK is three times higher than that with the EU.

Scotland exported £51.2billion in goods and services to the rest of the UK in 2018, the latest available figures show.

But Ms Harper, a South of Scotland list MSP in the last parliament said that “we can show that a border can work” if Scotland left the UK.

In an interview with ITV Border’s Representing Border programme, she said: “We’ve already got a hard border in the Irish Sea and that’s something that Boris Johnson told us we were not gonna have.”

Pressed on why they would add another one in the Scottish Borders, she said: “If a border will work we can show that a border will work, there are issues that have been brought to my attention that show that jobs can be created if a border is created.”

Oliver Mundell, the Scottish Tory candidate for Dumfriesshire, said: “This shows how dangerously out-of-touch the SNP really are – they think a border between Scotland and our biggest trading partner would actually create jobs.

“This half-witted nonsense would be laughable if it wasn’t so irresponsible.

“A harder border would risk the hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs that rely on the UK market.”

Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said “The phrase fantasy economics fails to cover this bizarre admission.

“Every credible economist since Adam Smith would warn that erecting a border between two parts of that one market would be a disaster for jobs. The SNP simply have no answers to the big questions.

“But the SNP have shown in this campaign that they are unwilling to look past their constitutional blind spot and will put jobs and livelihoods at risk in the pandemic.

Lib Dem campaign chairman Alistair Carmichael also condemned the “laughable and ludicrous” remarks.

He added: “What’s worse is that this nonsense doesn’t come from cranks on the fringes of the independence movement but from someone who has spent the last five years representing the public in parliament.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s economic plans are utterly disconnected from reality.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “A border with England, which is inevitable under the SNP’s plans for separation, would be catastrophic for trade.

“It would also build barriers between families and friends.”

Meanwhile, Ms Sturgeon was asked during a Clyde 2 radio phone-in if there hadn’t been a pandemic would a referendum been held in the last term of Parliament.

She said: “I think there possibly, probably would have been. Now yeah we had to demonstrate the support that I then think would have broken down that Westminster opposition.”

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