Charles Kennedy ‘would have led pro-EU campaign’

Late former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy. Picture: John Devlin
Late former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy. Picture: John Devlin
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FORMER Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy would have been a “proud, leading member” of the campaign to keep Britain in Europe, the Scottish Parliament has heard.

MSPs paid tribute to the pro-European Highland politician who died two weeks ago after a long battle with alcoholism.

It came as Holyrood backed calls for a “double majority” vote in the forthcoming EU referendum, meaning a UK vote to leave the EU would have to be backed by all four home nations before an exit can happen. MSPs also voted in favour of an SNP motion calling on 16 and 17-year-olds to be given the vote.

Holyrood heard that Mr Kennedy would have been at the heart of the Yes campaign.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “I think the campaign that I would argue we should be conducting about the European Union is something I know Charles Kennedy would also adopt as well.

“I’m sure that he would have been a leading member of that EU referendum campaign.

“I think he would have been a proud member of that and I would be proud that he would be taking part in that Yes campaign.”

Tory Highland MSP Jamie McGrigor also paid tribute to Mr Kennedy after his “tragic death.”

“His presence will be missed particularly in the forthcoming debates in Europe,” Mr McGrigor said.

“I’m sure that Mr Kennedy would have relished the opportunity of speaking up for the UK’s continued membership of the European Union in debates of this kind.”

Scotland’s External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said there was a “strong consensus” across the Scottish Parliament on the importance of EU membership to Scotland.

“As the in/out referendum is now an inevitability, we must continue to spell out the case for Scotland’s EU membership going forward,” she told MSPs.

“In making the positive case we will ensure the facts are set out to tackle head-on the unfounded fears and smears of those who want to see an EU exit as they present them from a narrow isolationist position.”

Ms Hyslop highlighted the social advantages of staying within the European Union as well as the economic benefits.

She said: “The experience of the EU and our vision for the EU is one in which we can create a more equal and more inclusive society.

“A European Union of members who embrace and promote human rights through the Convention rather than dismiss them or seek to refute them.”

The debate followed a TNS poll of 1,031 people which found that almost half (49%) would vote to stay in the EU, compared to 19% who would vote to leave and 26% who were undecided.

Labour’s Europe spokeswoman Claire Baker warned against complacency in the forthcoming campaign.

She said: “The outcome of the referendum here in Scotland or anywhere else across the UK is not guaranteed.

“These are the early days of the debate and those of us who support continued membership must convincingly win that argument.