SNP ‘may use referendum to lead pro-EU campaign’

John Swinney, left, and Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Greg Macvean
John Swinney, left, and Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Greg Macvean
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The SNP could use the “positivity” of last year’s independence drive to lead a stand-alone Scottish campaign to remain in the EU, John Swinney has said.

The Deputy First Minister said the SNP is unlikely to join a pro-EU campaign alongside the Tories but may “share a platform” on occasions with other parties who want the UK to remain in the Europe in the forthcoming referendum.

We didn’t win the referendum last September, but we did significantly grow support for Scottish independence because we set out the positive argument why it should be the case

John Swinney

The SNP has previously said that the outcome of the EU vote – likely to be staged in early 2017 – could trigger another Scottish independence referendum if Scotland votes to remain in Europe, but the UK as a whole opts to quit.

There has been speculation that the SNP will distance itself from the Britain Stronger in Europe group and Nicola Sturgeon has previously stated she would not share “cross-party platforms” with other parties.

“We want to have a clear message about why Scotland should remain within the EU,” Mr Swinney said yesterday.

“When I look at some of the arguments that being bandied about, I thought they sounded awful depressing and not particularly motivating. We need a really strong, positive message as to why Scotland should remain within the EU and given the political leadership that the SNP exercises in Scotland today, that’s a very natural role for the Scottish National Party to exercise.”

SNP external affairs minister Humza Yousaf has already criticised the negative tone of the campaign to stay in the EU which was launched on Monday. Mr Swinney insisted that any campaign it leads on the EU would emulate the tone of the Scottish independence push in the years building up to last September.

He added: “What we’ve always tried to do as a party is set out the positive side of what we believe in. That has borne us significant success because we’ve been straight with the people of Scotland about what we believe to be important.

“If we look at the conduct of the referendum campaign in Scotland, fundamentally we didn’t win, but we did significantly grow support for Scottish independence because we set out the positive argument.”