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Scottish parliament asks UK to ring-fence Scots EU single market membership

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland’s devolved parliament called on Tuesday for the British government to ring-fence its European Union single market membership even as Britain exits the bloc.

The Scottish flag flies over the Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Although the United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave the EU in a June referendum, Scotland voted to remain and says it therefore has a case for a separate deal with Brussels.

The ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) tabled a motion in the Holyrood parliament hoping to attract cross-party support for protecting the advantages Scotland enjoys as part of the EU and to better argue its case in negotiations with the UK government in London as it charts Britain’s path to exit.

“Scotland is currently the most attractive region outside of London for overseas inward investment, and maintaining a pathway to the single market is a key factor for many international companies who choose to base themselves here,” Economy Secretary Keith Brown said.

But the motion was passed with just the support of the other pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens.

Other political parties refused to back it because they fear the devolved government will use demands for a special deal for Scotland as a springboard for another plebiscite on Scottish independence.

Scots rejected secession from the UK by a ten-point margin in 2014.

“It’s time for the SNP to accept that remaining in the UK is far more important to Scotland than being part of the European Union,” said Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson.

“Scottish Labour will oppose any attempts by the SNP to force another independence referendum.”Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK is worth almost double what Scotland trades with the rest of the world.

The effort to maintain free movement and single market membership has set the SNP on a collision course with Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, which has indicated that curbing free movement of people from the European Union is a priority in Britain’s planned negotiating stance.

European leaders have indicated that accepting free movement of EU citizens is a requisite for single market membership.

Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; editing by Stephen Addison