NICK Clegg has launched a fierce attack on Ukip leader Nigel Farage as the Deputy Prime Minister insisted it would be “very damaging” for Scotland and the UK to exit the European Union.
He said the Liberal Democrats are the only party who are saying “unambiguously” that Britain should stay in Europe.
He was speaking ahead of next Thursday’s European elections, where there has been speculation that the fall in support for the Liberal Democrats will see the party lose its one Scottish MEP, George Lyon.
Meanwhile, Ukip candidate David Cockburn has claimed there is an “extremely good chance” his party - which wants the UK to pull out of Europe - could have a Scottish MEP following the vote.
Mr Clegg said he is “not a soothsayer”, and added: “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in the election next week.”
But he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I’ve been in politics long enough to see that polls come and go, but the only poll of course that counts is when people actually cast their votes.”
The Liberal Democrat leader also said it is important to challenge Ukip’s “argument of isolationism, of introversion, of turning inwards, of rejecting the world, pulling the drawbridge up, trying to the turn the clock back, which I think would be very damaging to Scotland, very damaging to the UK”.
Mr Clegg argued: “We are best as a family of nations in the UK when we’re outward-facing, when we’re self-confident, when we’re optimistic about our future. So much of what Nigel Farage represents is a sort of constant grinding pessimism about modern Britain, I am actually very optimistic about modern Britain.”
He went on to describe Mr Farage as being “a man who says women are worthless in the workplace if they want to have children, who won’t support same-sex marriage, who thinks climate change is some sort of fictional conspiracy”.
He added: “I just think it’s right for us to explain what we stand for but also say ‘are those the kind of views you want to see prevail?’.”
Mr Clegg insisted there are “many, many people across the country” who “don’t want to see this kind of hankering for a past that probably never existed where women belong in the kitchen, where we don’t deal with complex things like climate change, where we don’t work with other countries to keep ourselves safe and strong”.
He said: “That’s not the kind of vision of Britain, the vision of Scotland, that my party believes in. That’s why I think it’s right for us to forcefully explain that.”
He claimed that both Ukip and parts of the Conservative Party want to “pull ourselves out of what is the world’s largest economy”, while Labour is “basically sitting on its hands not saying anything at all” about Europe.
“We’re the only party unambiguously saying it is right for Scotland, right for Great Britain, right for the country as a whole for us to remain part of the huge market place of 500 million people who buy goods and services produced in Scotland and the UK as a whole,” Mr Clegg said.
“Yes it needs to be reformed, yes it needs to be improved, it’s not perfect. But to turn our back on the outside world would be very, very damaging to Scotland and to all of us.”