Former Scottish First minister Alex Salmond has been urged to quit the campaign to keep the UK in Europe “before he does any more damage”.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie made the plea after Mr Salmond said Scotland could vote for independence within two years if it was “dragged” out of the European Union (EU) by a Brexit vote.
Mr Salmond used the first TV debate of the campaign to warn: “If you had the situation where Scotland in four weeks’ time votes Remain and the rest of the UK or England drags Scotland out by voting to leave, then that would justify, in my opinion, another referendum.
“In the circumstances of Scotland being threatened with being dragged out of the EU against our will, I think the result would be ‘Yes’ this time.”
Such a vote ‘’would have to be within the two-year period of the UK negotiating to withdraw’’, he stated.
Mr Rennie accused Mr Salmond of “behaving like a not-so-secret agent for the Leave campaign” by focusing on Scottish independence, adding that his comments made a vote to leave more likely.
The Liberal Democrat said: “He spends more time rubbishing the official Remain campaign and promoting Scottish independence than making the positive case to remain in Europe.”
MSPs at Holyrood overwhelmingly backed a Scottish Government motion on Thursday, making clear their support for Scotland and the UK remaining part of the EU.
Last night, an SNP spokesperson told The Scotsman: “Alex Salmond made an absolutely outstanding and overwhelming case for Scotland and the UK’s continued membership of the EU on last night’s TV debate – his passionate arguments on the benefits of EU membership on migration, on employment opportunities for younger people and on the wider benefits of membership to our economy were well received by the audience of young people, including when answering a specific question from an audience member about Scottish independence.”
Meanwhile, it seems that voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to choose to remain in the European Union.
With surveys in London also suggesting strong support for staying in the EU, the result of the referendum on 23 June could hinge on the verdict of voters across the rest of England.
The latest opinion poll of the electorate in Scotland, conducted by ICM, puts Remain on 54 per cent, Leave on 32 per cent and Don’t Know on 14 per cent.