SCOTS should be offered a referendum on European Union membership if there is a Yes vote to leave the United Kingdom, Ukip leader Nigel Farage said last night.
Claiming that Scotland would not be a truly independent nation unless it was out of the EU, Farage attacked Alex Salmond for failing to offer another referendum in the event of a Yes vote. In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, the Ukip leader said Scots were being denied “true independence” by Salmond.
Farage’s intervention came as the First Minister yesterday made a bid to build support for his independence blueprint by attempting to reach out to female voters.
Addressing 1,000 SNP members at the party’s last conference before the independence referendum, Salmond announced he has promoted two more women to his Cabinet to work for greater equality across Scotland.
In a measured and carefully-targeted speech, Salmond also attempted to woo Labour voters arguing that independence would allow Johann Lamont’s party to return to its core values by freeing it from Westminster control.
But as Salmond was delivering his keynote speech in Aberdeen, his vision of independence came under attack from Farage, who said it was “unacceptable” that Salmond’s independence white paper made no provision for an EU referendum.
Farage said: “It seems to me that it would be completely wrong for Scots not to be offered a referendum on EU membership if they vote for independence. Salmond is not offering true independence. Most of our laws and regulations now come from the EU.”
Farage’s intervention comes just as the independence referendum campaign is interrupted by a month-long campaign for the European Parliament elections, which the SNP hopes could boost for the Yes cause.
EU membership has been a vexed question for the SNP. The party’s position – that Scotland would automatically be included on independence – has been strongly disputed by EU officials and Salmond’s political opponents.
The UK government and some experts have claimed that Scotland would lose its share of the UK rebate and would have to pay around £600 million for the rest of the UK’s rebate. But SNP strategists predict a strong showing for Ukip in England could persuade Scots that they no longer want to be part of the UK.
Farage, who wants the UK to stay together but backs more powers for Holyrood, was speaking ahead of his first visit to Scotland since he was forced to flee an Edinburgh pub during a press conference after it was besieged by protesters. He will return next month to join Ukip candidates campaigning in the European elections.
“I’m not at all intimidated. That experience just made me want to come back even more,” he said.
A recent ICM poll for The Scotsman indicated that 31 per cent of Scots were inclined to vote to leave the EU, while 47 per cent were inclined to stay.
Last night the SNP dismissed Farage’s intervention in the referendum debate. An SNP spokeswoman said: “Ukip support a No vote in September’s referendum, and one of the reasons why a Yes vote is essential is so that Scotland doesn’t risk getting dragged out of the European Union against our will in a Westminster in/out referendum.”
In Aberdeen, Salmond said independence would also allow Scotland to create a more equal society.
To that end, he promoted Shona Robison, previously a junior minister with responsibilty for sport and the Commonwealth Games, to the full Cabinet with the added responsibility for pensioner rights. Angela Constance retains her brief of youth employment, but has also been elevated to the Cabinet. Both women will receive the extra £17,000 received by Cabinet secretaries on top of their MSPs’ salary of £58,095.
Increasing the number of women in the Cabinet from two (Nicola Sturgeon and Fiona Hyslop) to four will bring female representation up from 25 per cent to 40 per cent.
The promotions bring the Cabinet into line with the SNP’s aspiration for Scotland’s boardrooms to have 40 per cent female membership after independence.
During a speech in which he outlined his plans to bring in cross-party expertise to the negotiations to break up Britain after independence, the First Minister also made a plea to Labour voters.
Claiming that Labour had lost touch with its voters’ values, Salmond said: “Independence will be good for Scottish Labour. The Labour Party, freed from Westminster control, will have the chance to return to its core values, many of which we in this party agree with and share.”
He added: “This is our moment. To be a beacon of hope. A land of achievement. Our country, our Scotland. Our independence.”
Salmond’s appeal to women voters was criticised by the Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont.
He said: “Alex Salmond knows he has a problem appealing to half of the electorate, but women can spot a dodgy chat-up line when they hear it.
“He has had seven years to do something about childcare, but he is only now interested in the issue because he thinks there are votes in it for himself. With something as serious as the referendum on Scotland’s future, women are showing they want more than just a few vague promises that everything will be all right on the night.”
“The evidence shows women understand the gravity of this vote and are taking a pragmatic, practical and sceptical approach.”
Lamont added: “And if you are offering an uncertain future, like that being offered by separation, then they are entitled to ask the question ‘why change?’”