Scotland politics

'People's Vote' campaigners in Edinburgh urge Theresa May to 'start listening'

Augustine United Church
Image caption Speakers included Brexit Secretary Mike Russell and representatives from other parties

Campaigners for another EU referendum have gathered in Edinburgh to repeat calls to "stop the clock" on Brexit.

About 200 people met in the capital to hear cross-party speakers support the People's Vote campaign.

Brexit Secretary Mike Russell called on Prime Minister Theresa May to "start listening".

The UK government said it was committed to delivering on the result of the 2016 referendum and leaving the EU on 29 March.

Mr Russell said Scotland was "more united than ever" on remaining in the EU and that Brexit should be halted and Article 50 extended to enable a second vote.

At the rally, Mr Russell said the refusal to rule out a no-deal Brexit is "unconscionable" and warned it risks "economic ruin".

Mr Russell said: "It is really important that people take action because they look at the situation and feel powerless.

"They have a choice.

"And the choice is they have to extend Article 50, which is on offer, rule out a no deal and you go back to the people because the politicians haven't been able to decide.

"People are campaigning for that the length and breadth of these islands. And that's the right thing for now - let's get behind it."

Image caption Mike Russell said it was time for Theresa May to "start listening"

Mr Russell said before the event: "In Scotland, at least, Brexit has not had the dividing effect that we've seen at Westminster.

"In fact, over the past two-and-a-half years Scotland has become more united than ever in support for our continuing place in Europe and against the damage that Brexit will inflict."

He said the UK government needs to "face reality", adding: "Tinkering around the edges of their deal is a doomed strategy, no-deal brinkmanship is reckless and leaving that option on the table with just over 60 days until we're due to leave the EU is unconscionable.

"We face the political challenge of our times, and we mustn't allow the Brexiteer Tories to run down the clock and drag us all into economic ruin."

Image caption About 200 people turned out to support the People's Vote campaign in Edinburgh

The Rally for Europe event in Edinburgh on Saturday was one of several taking place across the UK.

Mr Russell spoke alongside politicians from all major parties, except the Conservatives, including Labour MP Ian Murray, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine and Green MSP Andy Wightman.

He was also was joined by University of Glasgow principal Sir Anton Muscatelli at the event at Augustine United Church.

Sir Anton was speaking amid his own worries about the prospect of the loss of a European research community.

He also spoke about the campaign for a further referendum as an economist, telling attendees Brexit looked to be an "unmitigated disaster" for the UK economy.

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He said: "I think frankly its becoming pretty much the only option at the moment.

"Those of us who were advising the government on a softer approach to Brexit at the beginning now feel that there isn't any agreement within parliament.

"Really at this point, given the huge dangers of crashing out with no deal, or accepting a very bad deal, which economically, would be very damaging to the UK, the only option really is to go back to the people.

"They are probably the only ones who can break the deadlock at this point."

Ahead of the event, Labour MP Ian Murray said: "It's clear that we must seek to extend the Article 50 process to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

"Labour Party policy, as endorsed by party conference, should be to support a people's vote, and it's time for the leadership to come off the fence and get fully behind this.

"All political parties should be working together in the national interest, so that we can offer the people of the UK the opportunity to keep the best deal we already have as a member of the EU."

A UK Government spokesman said: "The government's firm policy remains that we are leaving the EU on March 29 and that we will not be extending Article 50.

"What we need is to deliver on the referendum, not delay decisions. Backing the deal is the best way to do that."

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