Nicola Sturgeon to underline SNP commitment to EU

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NICOLA Sturgeon will today underline the SNP government’s commitment to the EU when she gives a speech in Dublin.

Addressing the British Irish Chamber of Commerce Annual Conference, the deputy first minister will emphasise the links Scotland and Ireland share with Europe.

As the arguments over both an independent Scotland and the UK’s membership of the EU rage, Ms Sturgeon will say: “We believe that one of the bonds we share with Ireland is our commitment to Europe and our appreciation of the benefits that the EU brings to our citizens.

“And, even – perhaps especially – in these times of flux for the EU, we should not lose sight of what these benefits are. The EU is easily our biggest international trading partner accounting for nearly half of Scotland’s exports.

“Membership of the EU is one of the major factors that makes us attractive for inward investment. It is estimated that inward investment has created and safeguarded around 64,000 jobs for Scotland in the last decade. One of the arguments we often hear from opponents of our aspiration to become an independent country is that it will leave us weaker on the international economic and political stage, including the EU.”

Speaking at the city’s Aviva Stadium, she will add: “I wonder how many in this audience, or indeed across Ireland as a whole, would agree with the view that being independent is the wrong choice in terms of European and international engagement. Very few I suspect.”

Ms Sturgeon’s speech comes at time when EU membership is at the top of the political agenda. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised the UK an “in/out” referendum on EU membership should the Tories win the next general election.

First Minister Alex Salmond has admitted that if Scots vote for independence they will be denied the same vote.

Mr Salmond has argued that a “Yes” vote would be an endorsement of the SNP’s position that an independent Scotland should have EU membership.

His opponents, however, have disputed the SNP’s claims that Scotland would gain automatic membership.