EU uncertainty 'damaging Scotland'

The politics of Euroscepticism are deeply damaging for Scotland, Alex Salmond has said.

Alex Salmond claimed a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum could see the country 'being dragged out of Europe' against its will
Alex Salmond claimed a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum could see the country 'being dragged out of Europe' against its will

The First Minister repeated his warning that a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum could see the country in danger of "being dragged out of Europe" against its will, due to Conservative proposals to hold a referendum on EU membership.

Mr Salmond was commenting on the UK and Scotland's future in Europe in the wake of remarks from the president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) that David Cameron's plan for an in/out vote on EU membership is increasingly causing ''real concern'' for companies .

Sir Mike Rake hit out at the ''uncertainty'' being caused by the proposal to hold such a vote in 2017 as he addressed a business dinner in Glasgow yesterday that was attended by the Prime Minister.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Salmond said he does not believe there is "any wish" in Scotland for the country to leave the EU.

He said: "I think, on the contrary, the politics of Euroscepticism that we see in Westminster are deeply damaging for Scotland, and could be even more damaging if we are dragged out of Europe.

"I think we should get on with building a constructive relationship with the rest of our partners across the European continent. I think that is very much the trend of the outward-looking, internationalist approach of the people who believe in an independent Scotland."

The Scottish Government has proposed that Scotland will become an independent EU member state in the event of a Yes vote on September 18. Mr Salmond says there will be "a smooth transition" to full membership.

Commenting on the proposed in/out referendum, he said: "Generally speaking - and I'm not saying this is a universal law - you hold a referendum if you are looking for the wishes of the people, the assent of something you want to do.

"You don't hold a referendum normally for something you don't want to do. That's the ridiculous position that David Cameron has now got himself into.

"The debate in Scotland is that we should not place ourselves in the position, given that we are only 8% of the UK population, of potentially being dragged out of the European Union against our wishes, against our will, which might be the position if we are foolish enough to have a No vote in this referendum."

Speaking at the CBI dinner, Mr Cameron said: ''Yes, of course referendums create uncertainty. But I think it is much better in life to confront these big issues, answer the questions, have a clear strategy for your country and then see it through to the other side.''

He added: ''Of course I want to end uncertainty, whether over the future of the United Kingdom or the future of the United Kingdom within the European Union.

''But I think in modern politics, if you want to trust people and take them with you, you can't maintain those relationships without public support.

''I have a strategy which is about getting the changes we need and then holding a referendum in which I believe Britain should stay in a reformed European Union, I think that is the right answer."

Mr Cameron said during a campaign trip to Midlothian today that the First Minister is "in a muddle" over Europe.

"If Scotland votes for separation it leaves the European Union automatically," the Prime Minister insisted on a visit to Royal Navy supplier MacTaggart Scott in Loanhead.

"It then has to join the queue to get back into the EU, and there can be no guarantee that that will be a swift or easy process.

"If Scotland votes to stay inside the UK, we're members of EU. I've promised a referendum on that membership before the end of 2017 and that is a position that is supported by a majority of people in Scotland, who think it is right to renegotiate to get a better relationship with Europe and then have a referendum.

"It's not just supported by a majority of Scots, it's also supported by a majority of Alex Salmond's own party, so I'm not surprised he's in a bit of a muddle about this issue."