THE European Union could impose a hard border between Scotland and England after independence, the SNP’s Brexit Secretary has acknowledged.

Michael Russell told a fringe event at the SNP conference in Aberdeen that the border would be “governed by our membership of the EU”, not settled domestically.

On Sunday, Nicola Sturgeon refused to rule out infrastructure and customs checks if Brexit was combined with Scottish independence in Europe.

She said she would be “honest and frank” about the issue with voters before Indyref2.

READ MORE: Sturgeon refuses to rule out hard border with England after independence

However in TV interviews on Monday, she suggested border arrangements would be for Scotland and the rest of the UK to sort out, downplaying the role of Brussels.

She said she would “make sure that Scotland continues to trade with the rest of the UK in the same way that the rest of the UK will have big interests in continuing to trade with Scotland”.

She added: “It would be my intention that [a hard border] does not happen.” 

If Scotland were in the EU after independence and England was out and the trading regimes wee different, the EU would want to secure the border between the two to ensure that neither the single market or EU customs union was undermined.

Mr Russell told activists: "There will be issues that will confront us as an independent country which we will have to recognise and respond to.

"The issue of the relationship between countries and borders between countries, of course, will be an issue.

"But it will be governed by our membership of the EU, that is the important issue, just as Ireland's relationship with the UK will be governed."

SNP MEP Alyn Smith added: "If the border looks like Northern Ireland, if the border looks like Sweden to Norway, if the border looks like France into Switzerland there are exemplars that already exist and the EU is looking at this stuff as well."

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Asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain if an independent Scotland in the EU could avoid a hard border with a post-Brexit England, Ms Sturgeon said: “We don’t yet know how the UK is going to resolve its longer term future with the European Union.

“When we do that then we take those decisions in terms of how we make sure that Scotland continues to trade with the rest of the UK in the same way that the rest of the UK will have big interests in continuing to trade with Scotland.

“But at the end of the day this is about whether it’s Scotland that decides our future, that we take into account all of the implications of being independent, all of the challenges, all of the opportunities, and we decide our own future.”

Later, on BBC Breakfast, Ms Sturgeon was asked if she accepted a hard border would have to be created between Scotland and England because of independence and Brexit.

She said: “No, I don’t accept that, and it would be my intention that does not happen. 

“And before Scotland takes that decision on independence we would set out how we would intend to ensure that trade flows between Scotland and the rest of the UK and vice versa would continue, because it’s important that they do.

“Obviously the detail of that, and this is where I’m not going to try and pull the wool over people’s eyes, the detail of how we achieve that depends on the final relationship between the UK and the EU. We don’t know what that’s going to be yet. 

So I will, as the independence campaign did in 2014, we’ll put forward all of these facts and arguments so that people in Scotland can make an informed choice about our future, in contrast to the kind of choice that was made over Brexit.

“I want there to be a genuinely informed choice for Scotland.”

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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "Whether it's a hard border or the hard cuts of the so-called Growth Commission, the SNP has shown it is determined to pursue a separate state even if it badly hurts the people of Scotland.

"A hard border between Scotland and England would cost jobs, hurt our public services and divide families. Our communities don’t need more barriers and disruption.”

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “The SNP’s economic case for independence has never been weaker. 

“Now we have Nicola Sturgeon admitting a hard border could be put up if her plans to break Scotland away from the rest of the UK come to fruition.

“All of this would make Scotland poorer, our businesses less competitive and put hardworking Scots right up against it.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, added: “Nicola Sturgeon must come clean on the devastating impact of a hard border with England. The SNP must produce its own ‘Yellowhammer’ document that spells out the consequences of Scexit.

“We know it would be catastrophic for our economy, as we trade nearly £50billion with the rest of the UK.

“It would put livelihoods at risk as over half-a-million jobs in Scotland are supported by the rest of the UK.

“And it would put freedom of movement at risk after more than 300 years.”