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SNP minister says referendum asking Scots if they want to re-join EU could be ‘desirable’

SNP accused of ‘shallow and unclear’ position on EU membership after Michael Russell’s remarks

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Tuesday 27 April 2021 11:47

The SNP has been accused of sowing confusion after a senior party figure suggested Scots could be asked if they want Scotland to re-join the EU in a referendum.

Michael Russell, Scotland’s constitution secretary and SNP president, suggested it could be “desirable” to hold a referendum on EU membership if Scotland were to secure its independence from the UK.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon made clear when launching her party’s manifesto earlier this month that she did not believe a referendum on EU membership would be necessary. “That’s not my policy,” she said.

Citing the result of the 2016 Brexit vote – in which 62 per cent of Scots voted to remain part of the EU – Ms Sturgeon: “The vast majority of people in Scotland want to be in the EU.”

However, Mr Russell told an Institute for Government online event that “it would depend on the circumstances of the time and what the requirements of the time are”.

The Scottish government minister added: “The people of Scotland have been pretty unequivocal in wanting to stay, in every single poll, in the EU. So you could argue that that was not necessary.

“There are circumstances in which you could say it would be desirable to have a re-endorsement of it. My own view is it’s not necessary, but I wouldn’t go to the wall for it and I shall not be the decision maker anyway.”

Opposition parties in Scotland were scathing about the apparent divergence in the position stated by Ms Sturgeon and the views shared by Mr Russell. The Scottish Tories claimed “they can’t get their stories straight”.

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, said Scots could face years of “freaky arguments” if the SNP gains a majority at next week’s Holyrood election.

He toldThe Independent: “If the nationalists win a majority these are the kind of futile debates that will take up the next five years.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart, the party’s constitution spokesman, said: “Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell are united in their determination to inflict another damaging independence referendum.

“But when it comes to what would happen in the event of breaking up the UK, they can’t get their stories straight.”

He added: “The SNP admit they’ve done no economic analysis on independence and their position on the EU is just as shallow and unclear.”

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