An independent Scotland that is part of the European Union will need to build a “great wall of Gretna” at the border with England, the UK immigration minister has claimed.
Home Office minister Kevin Foster used a visit to Scotland to speak out against the SNP’s flagship goal of independence.
He said an independent Scotland part of the Schengen scheme, which permits free travel without passport checks between European nations, would necessitate the construction of a hard border between Scotland and England.
He challenged Nicola Sturgeon’s party to “start being upfront about the impact of some of their policies”.
Speaking to journalists during his visit to Linlithgow, West Lothian, and other parts of the country, he said: “If they wanted Scotland to join Schengen that does mean a hard border, it means building a great wall of Gretna.”
Rather than “debating the philosophical future” of the country with another independence referendum – something the SNP wants to hold before the next Holyrood election – Mr Foster said Scotland’s governing party should be “getting on with the day job” of dealing with coronavirus and the recovery from the pandemic.
He was dismissive of Scottish Government calls for more powers over immigration to be devolved to Holyrood, saying: “We’re very clear that we need to have a migration system that works for the whole of the United Kingdom.
“What I am not interested in doing is creating passport control at Berwick. The UK operates as a single market despite the SNP’s thoughts on this.
“It’s always interesting to hear the SNP talking about wanting to rejoin the EU if they achieve their goal of separation, but they are quiet about what that would mean in terms of rejoining the Common Fisheries Policy, potentially joining the euro, what it could mean around Schengen.
“We’re coming out of an extraordinary period of a pandemic, the first to hit the UK of this nature for a century, our minds really should be focused on recovery, getting people back to work, and dealing with the many impacts we know there is going to be of the pandemic.
“That is what we should be doing, getting on with the day job, not sitting round debating the philosophical future.”
An SNP spokesman said: “People in Scotland are fed up with Tory ministers coming here on day trips spouting nonsense as part of their anti-democratic campaign to tighten Westminster control over Scotland.
“Just like Ireland, people in an independent Scotland as part of the EU would have the huge advantage of being able to move freely across the British Isles as well as the EU – instead of being subject to Boris Johnson’s disastrous hard Brexit.
“It is the Tories with their anti-European obsession who are building borders. As an independent EU member, Scotland would be in the world’s biggest single market – which is seven times the size of the UK – offering massive economic opportunity.”