NICOLA Sturgeon has renewed demands for Scotland to remain in the European single market after Theresa May proposed a special Brexit arrangement for Northern Ireland.

The First Minister reiterated calls for a bespoke deal after it emerged such an arrangement was on offer across the Irish Sea in a bid to prevent a hard border, which politicians warned could spark fresh paramilitary violence and undermine the fragile peace process.

In a statement released late yesterday afternoon she welcomed the proposal to solve the border issue, which was essentially in line with Irish Government’s demands backed by the EU.

And she underlined the added importance of Scotland remaining in the single market if Northern Ireland continued to remain in it.

“Today’s developments show very clearly that if one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with the EU and effectively stay in the single market, there is no good practical reason why others cannot do the same,” she said.

“Indeed, any special status for Northern Ireland would make a similar solution for Scotland even more vital. For Scotland to find itself outside the single market while Northern Ireland effectively stays in would place us at a double disadvantage when it comes to jobs and investment.”

She added: “While the simplest answer to the Brexit problem is for the whole UK to stay in the single market, the Scottish Government has already put forward very detailed compromise proposals for how Scotland’s place in the single market could be maintained if the rest of the UK insists on leaving – proposals which were previously rejected by the UK Government as unworkable.

“Indeed, if Northern Ireland is effectively kept in the single market it makes it all the more vital for Scotland’s national and economic interests that we are too.”

Her intervention late yesterday afternoon came on a day of high drama in Brussels – with a deal looking likely early in the day, only to collapse hours later.

A lunchtime meeting there between the Prime Minister and the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker began with hopes high that the EU would be able to declare sufficient progress had been made on the so-called “divorce issues” in order to allow the leaders of the remaining EU27 nations to give the green light for trade talks to begin next week.

But reports May was on the verge of agreeing a deal on “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland the Republic, led DUP leader Arlene Foster to call the Prime Minister out of her lunch with Juncker to say such a situation would not be acceptable to her party – which props up the Tory minority government.

Until Foster’s furious intervention it seemed Northern Ireland was on the verge of getting a differentiated settlement that would effectively allowing the country to remain in both the single market and customs union, contradicting what May had earlier said about it coming out of both with the rest of the UK.

But while Foster attacked the possibility of a special deal, politicians in Scotland, Wales and London all seized on it, saying if Northern Ireland could be given a special deal, other parts of the UK should too.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones agreed with Sturgeon, taking to Twitter to make their arguments.

“Huge ramifications for London if Theresa May has conceded that it’s possible for part of the UK to remain within the single market & customs union after Brexit. Londoners overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and a similar deal here could protect tens of thousands of jobs,” he posted.

Jones wrote: “We cannot allow different parts of the UK to be more favourably treated than others. If one part of the UK is granted continued participation in the Single Market & Customs Union, then we fully expect to be made the same offer.”

Last night former First Minister Henry McLeish told The National that the differentiated deal being offered to Northern Ireland was a “remarkable development”.

“This is the first major breach in the defences of the hardline Brexiteers who are now running up against a change in public opinion,” he said. “It seems important for Scots, people in London and elsewhere in the UK to look at the consequences.

“I believe that this could set in motion further developments. It will be up to the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people to look at the fine print of this deal and then offer the same prospect for Scots to have what Northern Ireland is about to be given.

“It’s a great day for Remain, and Theresa May now faces difficult questions among the Brexiteers in her own party.”

Asked about the DUP’s role, he said: “The politics of Britain, the politics of Scotland cannot be determined by a grubby deal between the DUP and the Tories. This is a wake-up call for the rest of Britain. Sanity looks like it might be prevailing and I believe for the good of Britain and Scotland the interests, arguments and ideas of the DUP should simply be ignored.”

Discussions are set to resume later this week, with both May and Juncker declaring themselves “confident” a solution can be found in time for a key summit of the European Council on December 14.

Foster spoke out after Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney said the Dublin government’s concerns over the post-Brexit border with Northern Ireland were set to be addressed fully.

Regulatory alignment could mean Ireland and Northern Ireland following the same rules governing trade, to ensure that goods can continue to move freely across a “soft” border with no checks.