First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Michael Russell has been appointed as the Scottish government’s new minister with responsibility for Brexit negotiations with the UK government.
Russell will report directly to Sturgeon and will focus “on ensuring the best interests of Scotland are represented and protected in all Westminster EU negotiations.”
Subject to the approval by the Scottish Parliament, Russell will become “Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe.”
Scotland voted in favour of remaining in the EU by 62% to 38% but the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU by 51.9% to 48.1%.
Russell was previously Minister for Environment from 2007 until 2009 and then served as Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution before moving to the role of Cabinet Secretary for Education which he held until 2014.
“While the UK Government is obviously still very unclear about what kind of relationship it wants with the European Union, the Scottish Government is absolutely focused on the importance of the EU to Scotland’s economy and our people,” said Russell.
“Those priorities will be at the heart of our approach to the negotiations.
“Following the overwhelming vote in Scotland to remain in the EU, it is essential that Scotland comes together to defend our national interest.
“Accordingly in these discussions, it is important that the nation speaks, as much as possible, with one voice.”
Sturgeon said: “We already have an agreement with the new Prime Minister that the Scottish Government should be fully involved in the development of the UK Government’s position ahead of Article 50 being triggered and beyond, and that options to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe will form part of these discussions.
“In the period ahead of Article 50 being triggered, influencing the UK position will be crucial to our efforts to protect Scotland’s interests and our relationship with Europe, especially the single market.
“However, it is also vital that we continue to engage with the EU institutions and member states – this work will continue to be led by Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Minister for Europe Alasdair Allan.
“Derek Mackay will continue to have overall responsibility for the constitution, including overseeing preparations for a new independence referendum bill should that prove to be the best or only way to protect Scotland’s interests.”