David Mundell has insisted he will not quit as Scottish Secretary over the Brexit deal, despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying he could not stay on in the post with a “shred of credibility”.
The First Minister accused the Tory Cabinet Secretary of lacking the “backbone” to quit, as she accused the UK Government of “sidelining” Scotland in its proposed withdrawal agreement.
Both Mr Mundell and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said just weeks ago that they could step down if the Brexit deal threatened the “integrity of the United Kingdom”.
Dominic Raab, who quit as Theresa May’s Brexit secretary because he could not support the deal, said in his resignation letter that it did exactly that – with Esther McVey echoing the sentiment as she quit as work and pensions secretary.
Ms Sturgeon said: “What is absolutely unclear to me is how David Mundell or Ruth Davidson can have any other option but to follow through on the principled commitment that they made.
“Having chosen that red line, and they chose it, it is really, really hard to see how they stay in office after today with a shred of credibility.”
Meanwhile, Labour shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird said that if Mr Mundell “had a backbone then he would resign with immediate effect”.
She added: “It is farcical that the Brexit secretary has resigned because the Prime Minister’s deal undermines the integrity of the UK, while the Scottish Tories stay silent.”
But Mr Mundell hit back at Mr Raab, branding him a “carpetbagger” whose resignation was “about manoeuvring and leadership”.
The Scottish Secretary said Mr Raab had a “latter-day commitment to the Union”.
Mr Mundell told ITV Border he is “absolutely committed to the integrity on the UK”.
He added: “I believe that the best way of keeping the United Kingdom together is to ensure that we have a deal as we leave the EU, that Brexit delivers for Scotland and the rest of the UK, and that is what I am focused on, not being part of some sort of soap opera of resignations and I am not going to be bounced into resigning by carpetbaggers.”
While the withdrawal deal includes special provisions for Northern Ireland in order to prevent a hard border with Ireland, Scottish Government politicians insisted this would leave them disadvantaged.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland faces being taken out of the European Union against our democratic wishes, Scotland faces being taken out of the single market against our economic wishes, and now we face being put at a competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland.
“That’s what the Tories are presiding over.”
In a telephone call with Mrs May on Wednesday night, the SNP leader said she had told the PM that the UK Government had “ignored Scotland, sidelined Scotland, cast aside Scotland’s interests”.
Mike Russell, her Constitutional Relations Secretary, was equally adamant that special provisions should be made to keep Scotland in the single market – noting SNP ministers have been calling for this for almost two years.
He said the deal as it stands would mean Northern Ireland would get a “better level of access” to the EU.
“We rejoice for Northern Ireland that this has been achieved but we cannot accept it be only for Northern Ireland,” Mr Russell said.
He also announced MSPs at Holyrood will have a chance to vote on the Brexit deal, if Mrs May can get it signed off by Europe at a special summit in Brussels later this month.
While any vote in Holyrood would only be a symbolic one, Mr Russell said: “We must acknowledge that this deal is unacceptable to Scotland and her citizens.”