Scotland politics

General Election 2017: Lib Dems aim to keep Scots in UK and EU

Tim Farron Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron is campaigning for a second referendum on EU membership

Only the Liberal Democrats can keep Scotland inside both the UK and EU, the party has claimed as it launched its general election manifesto.

The Lib Dems have put a second EU referendum at the heart of their manifesto, saying it would "give the final say to the British people".

They have also proposed legalising and taxing cannabis across the UK.

Scottish Lib Dem candidate Jo Swinson said the party would also take positive steps to support the Scottish economy.

But the SNP argued that the Lib Dems "can't be trusted to stand against Tory cuts", pointing to their "record of betrayal" by forming a coalition government with the Conservatives between 2010 and 2015.

Elsewhere on the general election campaign trail, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson visited a nursery school to highlight fresh efforts to boost literacy and numeracy standards.

Highlighting last week's figures which showed literacy standards have slipped in Scottish schools, she said: "It is simply not acceptable that we have children in our schools who can't read or count properly, and a first minister at Holyrood who won't listen."

And Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale used a speech to target voters in Scotland who backed remaining in the EU and the UK.

Ms Dugdale said these voters are a "majority for change" who are not served by the "extremes" of either the SNP or the Conservatives, who she accused of hijacking the results of the independence and EU referendums for their own ends.

Image caption SNP candidates John Nicolson claimed the Lib Dems could not be trusted on any of their election pledges

The Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges to hold a second referendum on the terms of any Brexit deal, with the party hoping to gather support from Remain-backing voters.

The party believes there is no deal that could be as good as continuing EU membership and would campaign to stay in, cancelling Brexit.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said Brexit represented "the biggest fight for the future of our country in a generation".

"The Liberal Democrats want you to have your choice over your future," he said.

"You should have your say on the Brexit deal in a referendum. And if you don't like the deal you should be able to reject it and choose to remain in Europe."

'Hard Brexit'

Ms Swinson, who was the Liberal Democrat business minister in the coalition government before losing her seat two years ago, said hers was the only party campaigning to stay in both the UK and EU single markets.

She said: "The Conservative hard Brexit puts at risk up to 80,000 Scottish jobs, according to the respected Fraser of Allander Institute.

"The SNP want to break up the UK single market that is worth four times as much. Labour voted with UKIP at Westminster to support hard Brexit.

"We are the only party that will work to keep Scottish business in the UK and EU markets, and offer practical support for business and a transformative investment in education."

She also said the Liberal Democrats were calling on the Scottish government to focus on education as the best route to a strong economy, instead of their "obsession with independence".

The manifesto proposes a new start-up allowance to help budding entrepreneurs in Scotland with living costs in their first six months running a business.

And it pledges to expand the work of the British Business Bank, which it said already helps 2,000 companies in Scotland to grow and create jobs.

Responding to the manifesto launch, SNP candidate John Nicolson said Scotland "has not forgotten the Lib Dem record of betrayal propping up the Tories in government."

He added: "For five years they rubber-stamped Tory austerity - cutting £2.3bn from Scotland's budget for public services.

"They trebled university tuition fees despite promising to abolish them, they scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance, introduced the bedroom tax, cut disability benefits, and backed Tory changes to the State Pension that deny millions of women the pension they deserve."