Independence referendum ‘influenced Euro campaign’

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SCOTLAND’S European election campaign was inevitably fought out with a focus on the upcoming referendum on independence.

All the main contenders asked voters to consider Scotland’s constitutional future when weighing up which party to back today.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Nicola Sturgeon pose for a selfie after voting. Picture: Hemedia

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Nicola Sturgeon pose for a selfie after voting. Picture: Hemedia

It created a stark contrast with electioneering south of the border, where a booming Ukip vote offers the chance that an anti-European Union (EU) party could finish with a large share of the vote.

That would put a pro-Europe result in Scotland at odds with the member state as a whole, a position the SNP has been keen to highlight.

SNP leader Alex Salmond already has two MEPs and hopes that a further collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote will help him add a third from the possible six seats.

Mr Salmond is pro-EU and wants Scotland to become a member state in its own right after a Yes vote in the independence referendum.

Campaigning this week, he said the SNP can keep Ukip out.

“The intolerant message that Ukip is peddling has no place in Scotland and the way to keep Ukip’s agenda out of Scottish politics is by voting SNP,’’ he said.

Polling expert Professor John Curtice says the Yes Scotland campaign will seek to exploit another Ukip failure.

“If Ukip do indeed manage to come first across Britain as a whole, but fail to pick up a seat in Scotland, the Yes campaign can be expected (to say) that this shows how very different the values of Scotland from those held by voters south of the border - and thus illustrates why Scotland should seek to govern itself,” he wrote on the website What Scotland Thinks.

But high-profile British media coverage of Ukip has irritated Greens, who also hope to send their first MEP from Scotland to Brussels.

The Greens argue: “There could not be a starker choice: between the Greens who believe in public services, who welcome people from other countries, and believe in international co-operation; and a Ukip which is anti-foreigner, anti-public service and revels in isolation.”

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, despite being keen to distance the poll from the independence referendum, could not avoid the issue at her campaign launch.

“I always think it’s quite an irony that the SNP want to work in co-operation with the rest of Europe, they see the benefit of working together,” she said.

“There is only one union they’ve got a problem with, the one with our neighbours in these islands.”

The Tories, who hope to keep their one MEP, argues that the SNP and Labour are failing their voters.

Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson says people want a say on whether the UK should be part of the EU.

“Bottling that challenge - as both the SNP and Labour are doing - is to ignore the wishes of voters and means the necessary change that will help Europe prosper will not come about.”

Lib Dem MEP George Lyon says his party is the only one pledging to keep Scotland in the UK and in Europe.

“We’re giving people a very stark choice,” he said at his campaign launch.

“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.”