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Europe

'Scotland will be a breath of fresh air'

As Theresa May prepares to officially trigger Brexit, some Scottish nationalists want out of the UK and into the EU. Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh talked to DW about Scotland's ambitions.

DW: Why do you want to keep Scotland in the EU?

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh: I am a Scottish Asian, I have a mixed background, Scotland is an outward-looking, international nation, that welcomes people from all over the world, and I want to keep it that way. 62 percent of Scottish people voted to stay in the EU in the Brexit referendum. [UK Prime Minister] Theresa May intends to take us out of the single market, that is economical and political suicide. We can not rely on [US President] Donald Trump and his protectionist policies, "hire  American, buy American," that is not going to bring Scotland forward.

Read: Scotland to open Berlin office to boost trade after Brexit

So the single market is the most important issue?

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It is of paramount importance. We stand to lose jobs, our economy is dependent on our membership of the single market. During the Brexit campaign, at no point was it discussed what the UK would look like, what would happen with the common market, the customs union. The Brexit campaigners were not clear on that. Even the Conservative Manifesto supports the single market. [Scottish First Minister] Nicola Sturgeon tried to compromise with the prime minister, to see if we can find a solution for Scotland to stay inside the single market, but Theresa May did not listen to her. She is not compromising, nor is she involving the devolved institutions in the process of Brexit.

Read: Scottish nationalists take on London over Brexit

You are part of the SNP's international team that is traveling around in Europe to find out about attitudes toward a separate Scottish membership of the EU. What is the general mood?

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Birgit Maass)

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh

There is a great feeling of strength toward Scotland in Brussels. We have met with [EU Commission President] Jean-Claude Juncker, he has said that Scotland has a right to be listened to. Guy Verhofstadt, the chief Brexit negotiator of the European Parliament, has said that it would be wrong to take Scotland out of the EU when it voted to stay. I have spoken to several EU states, I have been to Norway and Iceland, my colleagues have been to other EU states and EFTA [European Free Trade Association - the ed.] members, like Lichtenstein and Switzerland. I don't see a problem for us to remain in the EU.

Read: Scotland attempts to plot new European course

There is a reluctance from Spain to accept an independent Scotland, because that would open up the possibilities for Spanish communities like Catalonia to try to do the same.

We have engaged with Spain as well, and they have said they would not intervene. They would not veto when everything is sound and there was a proper referendum in the UK, on an agreed basis and according to the UK constitution. Then the result would be unquestionable.

But Scotland might not automatically stay a member, it might have to re-apply.

There are varying views on this issue. The majority of opinion which I have read is that we already comply with the EU in every respect. It is implicit with our ministerial code in Scotland that all our regulation in Scotland complies with EU law. Fundamentally, this is a question of democracy. The EU will continue [to function] as long as it respects the democratic mandate that exists in countries and the wishes of people. And at a moment in time when we are seeing right-wing movements across the continent, when others might want to leave, why would the EU not support Scotland? It makes sense to welcome the continued membership of Scotland. Scotland is, and will be, a breath of fresh air.

Tasmina Sheikh-Ahmed has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Ochil and South Perthshire since May 2015, and is currently the SNP's Trade and Investment spokesperson. 

The interview has been updated for accuracy.

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