'˜Sturgeon using EU debate to push for new indyref' says IDS

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of hijacking the European referendum for 'short-term and narrow purposes' to force a fresh vote on Scottish independence, by a leading figure of the Out campaign.

Iain Duncan Smith, one of the leading eurosceptics among the UK government, has accused Nicola Sturgeon of hijacking the EU debate to push for independence. Picture: PA
Iain Duncan Smith, one of the leading eurosceptics among the UK government, has accused Nicola Sturgeon of hijacking the EU debate to push for independence. Picture: PA

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith insists Scots are now “settled” in the Union and says it would be an “absurd proposition” for the SNP to push for a second independence referendum if the UK votes to leave the EU.

Ms Sturgeon is in London today to make a keynote speech on Europe at which she will call for a “positive” case to be made for the UK’s continued membership ahead of the referendum on 23 June. She announced the formation of the SNP “In Europe” campaign at the weekend.

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The First Minister has previously warned that a “Brexit” vote to take the UK out of the EU, if Scots vote to remain in, could trigger another 
independence referendum. But the notion was rejected by Mr Duncan Smith, one of the government’s leading eurosceptics. “The reality for Scotland is that they’ve had a referendum in Scotland. I was passionately pro the Union and I believe they voted for that.”

He added: “I think Scotland doesn’t want another referendum because they are settled.”

Polls suggest that public opinion in Scotland is firmly in favour of staying in the EU, while opinion is far more evenly divided south of the Border.

Mr Duncan Smith added; “What about the other way around? What if Scotland votes to remain – and we remain – and England votes to come out. Does that mean England has to have a referendum to leave the Union? It’s an absurd concept. These are politicians trying to use this for their own purposes – for their own short term and narrow political 

“That is what the Nationalists want. They are going to go on and on about a referendum for years to come because they never accepted what Alex Salmond said was a decision of a lifetime – of a generation.”

Ms Sturgeon has also been warned against using Brexit as a catalyst for a second Scottish referendum by historian Professor Tom Devine, who was one of the most high-profile campaigners for a Yes vote in the independence campaign.

He said yesterday: “The intellectual case for another referendum at the moment doesn’t stand up. My concern there, in terms of somebody who voted for independence a couple of years ago, is that such a move would be counter-
productive. That is, it might actually result in the parking of this major issue for the future of this country for a very, very long time in the future.”

Ms Sturgeon has indicated she would be reluctant to share a platform with David Cameron in campaigning for an In vote amid concerns such an approach may emulate the Better Together approach of the pro-Union alliance during the Scottish referendum, which she opposed.

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The First Minister launched her party’s “In Europe” campaign at the weekend, to be headed up by the Scottish Government’s Europe minister, Humza Yousaf. Ms Sturgeon has pledged to make a positive case throughout the UK for staying in and this will get under way today with a keynote speech in London.

“The Scottish Government believes that EU membership is in the best interests of Scotland,” she will say. “As such the Scottish Government will make a positive, constructive case for remaining in the EU. I believe that we benefit from being part of the EU, and the EU benefits from having us a part of it.

“For more than 40 years, membership of the European Union has been good for the prosperity and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities across the country.

“I want the vote on 23 June to result in an overwhelming victory, across all parts of the UK, for remaining in the European Union.”