Kezia Dugdale has warned against underestimating the “populist nationalism” of those backing Brexit as she drew parallels with the arguments made by supporters of Scottish independence in the 2014 referendum.
The Scottish Labour leader pointed to symmetries in the arguments of the two campaigns as she launched Labour In for Scotland alongside Labour In for Britain chairman Alan Johnson.
She said the EU referendum gives her party the opportunity to regroup following the “painful defeat” of coming third behind the Tories in last week’s Holyrood election.
Labour will make the positive case for the EU in the face of the “confusion” of nationalists and the “civil war” in the Tory Party, she said.
Addressing supporters in Edinburgh, Ms Dugdale said: “We are Scotland’s internationalist party. We believe in solidarity beyond borders. We believe that sharing sovereignty makes us all stronger, wealthier and safer. We believe in Scotland’s place in the UK.
“For those of us who campaigned in the Scottish referendum, many of the arguments from those campaigning for Brexit are eerie echoes of those we heard two years ago from some of those campaigning to leave the UK. We defeated those arguments two years ago, but in doing so we learned that populist nationalism should never be underestimated.
“We know that even faced with the overwhelming weight of evidence, it refuses to concede anything to reasoned argument.
“So in this debate we must win the arguments that appeal to the head, but we remember that they have to be combined with a story that reaches people’s hearts.”