The new leader of Scotland’s nationalists demanded that Britain should only be allowed to leave the European Union if all four nations making up the UK vote for an exit.
“An in/out referendum on EU membership in 2017 now seems inevitable, almost regardless of who wins the general election next May,” Nicola Sturgeon said last night.
Ms Sturgeon, who will take over next month as leader of the Scottish National Party and the first minister in Scotland’s semi-autonomous government, said in a speech in Edinburgh: “The impact of an exit on jobs and on the economy would be disastrous, and to be taken out against our wishes would be democratically indefensible.”
The SNP plans to put forward an amendment to any legislation on a referendum after the election, requiring that England, Scotland, Wales and the North would all have to vote for an exit for Britain to quit the EU, the party said.
UK prime minister David Cameron has pledged a referendum for 2017 if he’s re-elected, under growing pressure from the UK Independence Party, which seeks withdrawal from the EU.
Mr Cameron rejected the SNP demand in the House of Commons, saying that “we are one United Kingdom; there will be one in/out referendum and that will be decided on a majority of those who vote.”
Almost 45% of Scots backed the SNP’s call for an independent Scotland within the EU in a referendum in September.
The SNP has attracted thousands of new members since losing the vote, and YouGov pollster Peter Kellner has suggested the party may gain 20 extra lawmakers in the House of Commons in May.
With British politics becoming increasingly fractured and no one party looking likely to win a majority in parliament, that could give the SNP a role in deciding whether power stays with the Tories or passes to the opposition Labour Party.
Ms Sturgeon’s demand would play a part in any coalition talks. She cited academic research published in London’s Times newspaper last week that suggested Scotland might vote to stay in the EU even if the UK as a whole opted to leave.
“This proposal transforms the terms of the UK debate on Europe, which so far has been all about the Westminster parties dancing to UKIP’s tune,” Ms Sturgeon said. “It would give proper protection against any of the nations of the UK being removed from the EU against their will.”
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