EU referendum: Sturgeon warns against Treasury’s fear tactics

Nicola Sturgeon was in London to make the progressive case in favour of a remain vote in next month's EU referendum. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon was in London to make the progressive case in favour of a remain vote in next month's EU referendum. Picture: PA
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NICOLA Sturgeon has warned the Treasury its “fear-based” tactics in the EU referendum campaign could backfire.

The First Minister’s remarks came after the Treasury released a document warning Brexit could trigger a year-long recession which would put 820,000 people out of work and see house prices plunge by 18 per cent.

[The Treasury] have simply assumed a disaster in order to scare the pants off the British people

Lord Lawson

She said the UK government should heed the lessons of the Scottish independence campaign, saying: “I think you only have to look at the Scottish referendum to know that that kind of fear-based campaigning, that starts to insult people’s intelligence, can have a negative effect.”

Ms Sturgeon went on: “I would much rather we were campaigning positively. I think in Scotland certainly, we have got lots of experience of Treasury reports during referendum campaigns, and I think people have got savvy to be able to see through some of the overblown claims.

“Of course, there will be an economic impact, short, medium, and long-term, if there was a vote to leave the EU. But I’m much more interested in the positive reasons to stay in the EU,” Ms Sturgeon said.

Ms Sturgeon made the comments during a visit to Westminster to call for a more positive thrust to the Remain message as she joined forces with Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and Green MP Caroline Lucas to try to raise the profile of women in the referendum debate.

Meanwhile David Cameron has warned leaving the EU would be the “self-destruct option” for Britain.

• READ MORE: Support for Remain strengthening in Scotland, new poll shows

Speaking at the headquarters of B&Q the Prime Minister said a Leave vote would create the world’s first “DIY recession” as the country inflicted economic harm on itself just as it was recovering from the crash of 2008.

And he said the threat to families’ financial security and the nation’s economy meant a Remain vote was the “moral” choice in next month’s referendum.

The new Treasury analysis of the short-term impact of withdrawal from the EU also suggested public sector borrowing would rocket by between £24 billion and £39bn.

Mr Cameron said Britain was now “back on the right track” after the financial crisis, and urged voters not to put that at risk.

“As the Bank of England has said and the IMF has underlined, and the Treasury has now confirmed, the shock to our economy after leaving Europe would tip the country into recession,” he said.

“This could be, for the first time in history, a recession brought on ourselves.”

Standing alongside the PM, Chancellor George Osborne urged wavering voters to consider whether they were ready to “knowingly vote for recession”.

In a rebuff to Leave campaigners who suggest that some economic pain is “a price worth paying” for winning back sovereignty from Brussels, Mr Osborne said: “It’s not your wages that will be hit, it’s not your livelihoods that will go, it’s not you who will struggle to pay the bills. It’s the working people of Britain who will pay the price if we leave the EU.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Treasury report amounted to “yet more evidence a Tory Brexit would only make matters worse for working people already struggling under a Tory Government”.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The forecast from the Treasury gives us half a million good reasons to stay in the EU. Job loss can be devastating, especially if you have to look for work in the middle of a recession. Brexit is too big a risk for working people to take.”

The Scotsman’s EU Referendum page: Keep up to date with latest news, polls and features

But prominent Vote Leave campaigner Iain Duncan Smith said the warning “should not be believed by anyone” as it was “not an honest assessment but a deeply biased view of the future”.

And Brexit-backing former chancellors Lord Lawson of Blaby and Lord Lamont of Lerwick dismissed the Treasury forecasts and accused Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne of “scaremongering”.

Lord Lawson said: “The Treasury has enough trouble with forecasts even when they are trying to get them right.

“This time they have simply assumed a disaster in order to scare the pants off the British people.”

Lord Lamont said: “A lot of the government’s so-called forecast depends on business confidence, which the government is doing its best to undermine.

“Economists are no better than anyone else in predicting shifts in confidence.

“The link between house prices and the economy is extremely difficult to forecast.

“The Chancellor claims that house prices will fall by 10 per cent by 2018 if the UK votes to leave, but the independent OBR forecasts that by 2018 house prices will be 10 per cent higher than now – so the Chancellor is claiming that a vote to leave the EU would mean stable house prices.”

He added: “The Single Market is not some secret garden to which members have some hidden key.

“Statistics show conclusively that many non-EU members export just as successfully to the EU as EU members do.”

The Scotsman’s EU Referendum page: Keep up to date with latest news, polls and features.

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