First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered the keynote address at the Dublin Chambers of Commerce annual dinner.
Focussing on the effects of Brexit and the shared Scottish and Irish interest in ensuring that the growth of a global economy is matched by a focus on inclusion, the First Minister addressed an audience of more than 1,500 Dublin Chamber members.
Emphasising the social and economic links between Scotland and Ireland the First Minister said:
“In Scotland – and this is contrary to a point the Prime Minister made in Florence two weeks ago – many people in recent decades have felt absolutely at home in Europe.
“The fact that the UK Government is committed to leaving the EU means that that Scotland – like Ireland, and like Northern Ireland – now faces a dilemma which is not of our choosing. We want to remain a full member of the EU but face being taken out against our will.
“We deeply regret that. However we believe that if the UK is determined to leave the European Union, it should remain a member of the single market and the customs union.
“In my view, that is the obvious compromise solution. It’s democratically justified – the vote to leave was a very narrow one across the UK, and two of the four nations of the UK chose to remain.
“It’s also clearly economically desirable. Leaving the single market will be deeply damaging for Scotland’s businesses, for our universities, for trade and for jobs.
“In addition, the difficulty of attempting to find solutions outside the single market is becoming clearer by the month.
“On virtually every issue of substance relating to Brexit, the Irish Government – and the Irish business community as a whole – has an ally in Scotland.
“Like you, we didn’t want Brexit. Like you, we support single market and Customs Union membership. And like you, we know that Ireland’s circumstances require particular attention, and we will argue strongly for an open border. We believe that those positions are in the best interests of Scotland, of Ireland, and of everybody on these islands.
“Political developments around the world have posed a challenge for those of us who support free trade, who welcome immigration and who believe that the benefits of globalisation, if properly managed, should outweigh the costs. They challenge us to do even more to build a fair and inclusive society. It is the best, and perhaps the only, way to sustain support for a dynamic and open economy.
“In Scotland, inclusive growth is already a key part of our economic strategy. One element of that is that we recognise that there is a strong economic imperative behind many of our key social policies – such as expanding childcare, and improving attainment in education.
“Scotland certainly hasn’t got everything right, but – like Ireland – I think that we are at least facing up to the right issues. That’s important from a political, social and moral perspective – and it’s also crucial to ensuring that our economic policies are successful and sustainable.”