EU referendum: where do Scotland's political parties stand?

A REFERENDUM on the UK's membership of the European Union will take place on Thursday, June 23. Prime Minister David Cameron is in favour of remaining within the EU bloc, while several of his cabinet are openly backing a '˜Brexit'. But where do Scotland's political parties stand?

Scotland Stronger In Europe campaigner Charity Pierce hands out pro-EU leaflets. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/TSPL
Scotland Stronger In Europe campaigner Charity Pierce hands out pro-EU leaflets. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/TSPL


As the ruling party at Holyrood and the third largest in terms of seats at Westminster, the SNP is expected to play a prominent role in campaigning for the UK to remain an EU member. “The SNP will lead a positive and upbeat campaign to keep Scotland in the EU,” said a spokesman. “We will make a strong, positive case for the many benefits EU membership brings in terms of jobs, investment, social and employment protections and collective security.”

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Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale will allow individual Labour MSPs to make their own minds up on which side to campaign for. But, on current evidence, it’s unlikely many - or any at all - will plump for Brexit.

A party spokesman said: “Labour is Scotland’s only internationalist party and that’s why we will be campaigning to stay in the EU.

“Individual MSPs are free to reach their own decisions on this matter, but Kezia Dugdale has been clear that as a party we will be fighting to secure the best future for families in Scotland by staying in the EU.”


Tory leader Ruth Davidson is firmly against Brexit - but will allow individual MSPs to campaign for it if they so wish.

Central Scotland list member Margaret Mitchell announced this week she will vote against her party’s leadership by backing the Leave campaign, and other Conservatives at Holyrood could follow.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “Ruth has been clear from the outset that, while she supports the UK remaining in the EU, Scottish Conservative MSPs are free to vote how they please. This is in marked contrast to other political parties, who want MSPs to base their vote on which scenario would most likely trigger a second independence referendum.”


European Union membership is a core value of the Lib Dems - so don’t expect their five MSPs or wider party membership to flirt with the Leave campaign. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said: “Along with my colleagues both at Holyrood and at Westminster, I believe Britain should remain in the European Union.

“Liberal Democrats are united behind that and we are the only party UK-wide that has consistently highlighted the benefits of staying in the EU. Next to the NHS, the EU is one of the best things Britain has created, our ancestors would look on in envy on the peace we’ve had in Europe over the past seven decades.

“We should be using a referendum to confirm our belief in cooperation with our neighbours, not a belief in conflict.”


The two Green MSPs, Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone, are strongly in favour of the UK retaining its EU membership. But, the party stresses that if individual party members wish to back the Leave campaign, they are free to do so. Co-convener Harvie said: “We refuse to see this as a debate between two versions of the same free market, anti-immigration ideology.

“Europe has been at its best with a strong social and environmental agenda, and that is why we also agreed not to take part in any cross-party campaign which involves the Conservatives.

“The Scottish Green Party will campaign independently, and with others who agree that a better Europe is possible.”


The raison d’etre of UKIP is to campaign against EU membership.

Since its formation in 1993, the party has steadily built up its national profile, but has struggled to match its impact in England north of the border.

MEP David Coburn remains the only UKIP elected representative in Scotland, but is confident the party’s message will resonate with voters during the referendum campaign.

“I want to see power brought back from Brussells to both Holyrood and Westminster,” he told The Scotsman. “We will gain power over our fishing and energy policy.

“Production of steel in Scotland has been destroyed by high energy costs and EU trade tariffs. We should be organising our own trade agreements.”


A left-wing electoral alliance founded to fight the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, RISE accomodates members in favour and against EU membership from a socialist perspective. Jonathon Shafi, RISE national organiser, said: “David Cameron’s announcement that a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU will be held on 23 June has changed the complexion of the Holyrood campaign.

“The question of Scotland’s constitutional future now stands at the forefront of Scottish politics.

“RISE is standing for election with a clear commitment to a second independence referendum.

“It would be unacceptable for Scotland to be dragged out of the EU against the wishes of the majority of its voters.

“In its present form, the EU is a bosses’ club, committed to free market economics and austerity. Some of our candidates believe that reform can be achieved from within that club; some think it can only be achieved from without.”


Tommy Sheridan’s socialist party is in favour of “an independent Scotland out of the EU - unless it is reformed in the interests of working people.”