New blow to Sturgeon’s independence plans as trade figures show Scotland’s reliance on rest of UK

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Nicola Sturgeon believes it makes economic sense to leave the UK and join the EU, but latest figures show Scotland trades far more with England, Wales and Northern Ireland than the rest of Europe - Jeff J Mitchell/PA Wire
Nicola Sturgeon believes it makes economic sense to leave the UK and join the EU, but latest figures show Scotland trades far more with England, Wales and Northern Ireland than the rest of Europe - Jeff J Mitchell/PA Wire

Nicola Sturgeon’s case for independence has been dealt a blow after Scottish businesses increased their reliance on trade with the rest of the UK.

Unionist politicians said new figures, released on Thursday, proved that the SNP’s plan to leave the UK and rejoin the EU as an independent state would cause “huge economic damage” and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Exports to England, Wales and Northern Ireland rose £2.5 billion, to £52 billion, in 2019. Meanwhile, trade with the EU also grew but at a slower pace, increasing by just £420 million to £16.4 billion.

The rest of the UK accounted for 60 per cent of Scottish exports, compared to just 19 per cent for the EU and 21 per cent to the rest of the world.

‘Catastrophic for jobs and livelihoods’

“These figures are further proof of the enormous benefit Scotland derives from being part of the UK,” said Liz Smith, the Scottish Tory economic spokeswoman, said.

"Hundreds of thousands of Scottish jobs are reliant on us being part of the Union.

"It goes without saying that Scotland separating from its most important trading bloc would wreak huge economic damage - and yet that's exactly the nightmare scenario the SNP, with their independence obsession, are hell-bent on creating."

Ms Sturgeon argues that it makes sense for Scotland to leave the UK for the EU, because the European Single Market is seven times larger than Britain’s.

However, the official statistics released by her own government show that Scottish trade with the rest of the UK is worth more than three times that with the EU.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of the Scotland in Union campaign group, said: “Whatever you think of Brexit, it’s clear that leaving the UK and seeking to rejoin the EU – which is far from guaranteed – would be catastrophic for jobs and livelihoods.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “These statistics for 2019 show a strong underpinning performance in Scotland’s exports before the twin economic shocks caused by the global pandemic and EU Exit.

“The main driver for a growth in exports to the rest of the UK was an increase in electricity exports, helping to keep the lights on in England and Wales."

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