NICOLA Sturgeon has accepted an independent Scotland would have a hard trade border with England under her plans for the country’s future.

The First Minister confirmed there would be “customs and regulatory” issues if Scotland rejoined the EU after a Yes vote while the rest of the UK remained outside it, but said she wanted to minimise disruption for business.

In such a scenario, the border between Scotland and England would also be a tightly controlled external EU border as a result of Brexit.

She said: “There will be customs and regulatory issues on trade if we are in the [EU] single market. I think the benefits of being in the single market outweigh the challenges there, but what I'm saying to you very frankly is we need to set out how those challenges will be met.”

She added: “This is not about shying away from these issues. It's about saying these issues are not insurmountable if you come about them in the right way.” 

However she refused to use the words “border” or “checks” in case it gave the media an “easy headline”.

Ms Sturgeon made the comments in a Q&A after launching the first part of a renewed prospectus for independence, Building a Better Scotland.

Appearing with Green co-leader and minister Patrick Harvie at Bute House, Ms Sturgeon said independence did not guarantee improvements but was the best system of government.

But she said that not being independent in recent years has been to Scotland’s “great cost”.

She said: “The very fact of just being independent, for any country in the world, doesn’t magically guarantee success.

"What it does do is put the levers that determine success into your own hands

“It’s not possible to see into the future, five, 10, 20 years from now, for any country.

“Any country will face challenges and setbacks. The question is: what is the best system of governance to equip you to deal with those?”

In what sounded very much like a campaign slogan, Ms Sturgeon said other small European nations were wealthier, happier and fairer than the UK, so “Why not Scotland?”

Asked if independence and a return to the EU meant a “hard border” with England, she did not deny it, and said the issue would be addressed in a future paper on EU membership and trade.

She said the UK Government was in a “a deep mess” over the Northern Ireland protocol because it had “never levelled with people" in NI or Great Britain about its implications.

She said: “We will confront the implications of Brexit, which… presents different challenges around these issues.

"We're not dealing here with issues about the movement of people through the Common Travel Area. 

“But the issues in terms of regulatory and customs issues around goods, we've got to work out how that operates in a way that would fulfil the requirements that would be on us in terms of European Union membership - and remember the big advantages and benefits of European Union single market membership, a marketplace seven, eight times the size of the UK, enormous potential to grow a trade and to grow our exports. 

“We need to set out how we would deal with that in a way that isn't damaging to the south of Scotland and isn't damaging to businesses. 

“Much of the mess the UK Government is in is because of a lack of being honest with people and a lack of doing any planning for this. Because they're not prepared to be honest about the challenges that they need to overcome, in a sense they're not able to do that planning because that then says what the problems are. 

“That's the mistake we've got to ensure that we don’t replicate.

“I'm not going to shy away from any of these issues. 

“I think the benefits of Scotland being independent far outweigh any of these challenges, but how we overcome the challenges is important, and we have a duty to set that out clearly, and the future of work in this series will do that” 

The first part of the prospectus compared the UK’s economic and social performance to that of 10 comparator countries - Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands.

It said all were wealthier than the UK in terms of GDP per head, had less income inequality, a smaller gender pay gap, and higher pay. However eight of the ten also had higher taxes.  

Ms Sturgeon said years of low growth and high inflation in the coming years were “guaranteed” if Scotland remained within the UK.

“The question is then: do we just accept that, or do we look at comparator countries that have all been dealing with the same challenges in terms of Covid and the wider issues around cost of living that the UK is and are performing much better?” she asked.

“And do we decide that the sooner we get onto that path, then the earlier we will work our way towards the kind of success that they enjoy.”

But she was unable to say how many “years or decades” it would take an independent Scotland to match the GDP of the comparator countries. 

A spokeswoman for the UK Government said: “Now is not the time to be talking about another referendum.

“People across Scotland rightly want and expect to see both of their governments working together with a relentless focus on the issues that matter to them, their families and communities.

“That means tackling the cost of living, protecting our long-term energy security, leading the international response against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing our economy so that everyone has access to the opportunities, skills and jobs for the future.”