Scotland

Willie Rennie urges Alex Salmond to quit EU campaign

Willie Rennie and Alex Salmond Image copyright PA/AFP

Alex Salmond has been urged to quit the campaign to keep the UK in Europe "before he does any more damage".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie made the plea as he warned that the former first minister was "undermining" the remain campaign.

In a TV debate, Mr Salmond said Scotland could vote for independence within two years of a UK Brexit vote.

A SNP spokesman said the former party leader made an "outstanding" case for the UK's continued EU membership.

During the debate, the MP for Gordon said: "If you had the situation where Scotland in four weeks' time votes Remain and the rest of the UK or England drags Scotland out by voting to leave, then that would justify, in my opinion, another referendum.

"In the circumstances of Scotland being threatened with being dragged out of the EU against our will, I think the result would be 'Yes' this time."

Such a vote "would have to be within the two-year period of the UK negotiating to withdraw", he stated.

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Media captionEU debate: Two-year window for Scottish referendum - Salmond

While polls across the UK suggest a tight contest between the leave and remain campaigns in the run-up to the June 23 European referendum, research in Scotland suggests a clear majority in favour of staying in the EU.

Mr Rennie accused the former first minister of "behaving like a not-so-secret agent for the leave campaign" by focusing on Scottish independence, adding that his comments made a vote to leave more likely.

He said: "He spends more time rubbishing the official remain campaign and promoting Scottish independence than making the positive case to remain in Europe."

MSPs at Holyrood overwhelmingly backed a Scottish government motion on Thursday, making clear their support for Scotland and the UK remaining part of the EU.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The TV debate was hosted by Victoria Derbyshire (centre) and featured Dr Liam Fox (left), Diane James and Alan Johnson as well as Mr Salmond

Mr Rennie added: "This week in parliament, MSPs from all parties made the clear, passionate, positive case for Scotland remaining part of the EU.

"But Alex Salmond seems more interested in using the Europe poll to advance the cause of Scottish independence than actively working to keep us in the EU.

"Too many senior figures in the SNP are approaching this 2016 referendum with a 2014 mind-set. Alex Salmond is a serial offender.

"His threats about another independence vote may encourage his supporters to back Brexit. His attacks on the remain campaign are undermining it and risking Brexit.

"On both counts he is risking our place in the European Union, not supporting it. Alex Salmond should opt out of the campaign before he does any more damage."

'Overwhelming case'

A spokesman for the SNP said Mr Salmond made an "outstanding and overwhelming case" for Scotland and the UK's continued membership of the EU.

"His passionate arguments on the benefits of EU membership on migration, on employment opportunities for younger people and on the wider benefits of membership to our economy were well received by the audience of young people, including when answering a specific question from an audience member about Scottish independence," he said.

"Willie Rennie needs to make up his mind quickly what his top priority is - attacking the SNP over everything and anything, or joining our efforts to keep Scotland in Europe."

Image copyright Nigel Farage / Twitter
Image caption Ukip leader Nigel Farage has been campaigning in Aberdeen

Meanwhile, Ukip leader Nigel Farage has been in Scotland campaigning for a Leave vote.

Mr Farage spoke at a Fishing for Leave conference in Aberdeen, alongside UK government Marine Environment Minister George Eustice.

The MEP urged fishermen to "take back our birthright" by voting to leave the EU, insisting "our grandparents didn't fight two world wars...so that we should have to go to Brussels to beg for crumbs from the table."

He also said the UK has "literally given away our country" and urged British citizens to fight for their "birthright"; to "have the whip hand" in future negotiations with Europe.

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