THE Liberal Democrats claim there is a stark choice for voters who may be tempted to back other parties in the European election later this month.
Senior figures launched the party’s campaign in Edinburgh yesterday, claiming the SNP’s independence plans put Scotland’s future in the European Union at risk, while the Tories and Ukip could pull Britain out, damaging jobs and the economy.
George Lyon, the party’s only MEP in Scotland, said: “We’re giving people a very stark choice.
“Ukip and the Tories clearly want to walk out through the exit door, the SNP puts our place in Europe under threat through their independence plan, and Labour, they’re split on Europe and as we saw they will hardly lift a finger to defend our place in the EU.”
He was joined by Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael and Scottish party leader Willie Rennie to formally start his campaign for re-election.
The trio chose to promote their cause during a visit to a high-end whisky bottling plant on the edge of Edinburgh.
Mr Lyon focused the campaign message in response to the looming independence referendum on 18 September.
Sending another SNP MEP to Brussels would not help Scotland maintain its level of support after independence, he claimed.
And he questioned claims in the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence which suggest full EU statehood can be achieved within 18 months of a Yes vote.
“I believe the Scottish referendum and a vote for independence is indeed the first and biggest threat to our relationship with the EU,” he said.
Asked if the SNP could keep the UK’s current budget rebate, he said: “There’s not a chance in hell. The idea that another small, independent country would come along and renegotiate this is fanciful in the extreme.”
Mr Carmichael, the Lib Dem MP for Shetland and Orkney, said: “If you are genuinely a pro-European voter in Scotland then the SNP is now a fundamentally unattractive proposition for you.”
Mr Rennie, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said Mr Lyon is the most effective MEP in Britain.
Of Scotland’s six MEPs, the SNP and Labour both have two, while the Lib Dems and Conservatives have one each.
But with the Lib Dems having suffered a decline in support since the last European elections in 2009, there has been speculation that they might lose their only Scottish MEP in the upcoming ballot.
Labour and the SNP launched their European campaigns last week.
Labour leader Johann Lamont said the campaign for the election, to be held on 22 May, should not be seen as an extension of the referendum campaign, while First Minister Alex Salmond said that Westminster representation in the EU had “let Scotland down time and time again”.
SNP candidate Stephen Gethins said: “Leaving the EU would be a disaster for the thousands of people across Scotland whose jobs depend on being part of the EU, jobs that Westminster is happy to sacrifice to its anti-Europe agenda.
“That is why a study from the University of Edinburgh last week found that support for remaining in the EU is significantly stronger in Scotland than in England.
“This year gives people in Scotland the chance to ensure that Scotland’s interests are no longer undermined by Westminster.”