Defeated Dugdale: Labour will fight to keep Scotland, and UK, in Europe


Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale launched her party’s European referendum “remain” campaign in Edinburgh today. As the first in a series of articles about the referendum, reproduces her speech as a contribution to the public debate

After last week’s painful defeat I promised we wouldn’t stop standing up for what we believe in. We won’t stop fighting for our values.

Kezia Dugdale
Kezia Dugdale

The start of our referendum campaign gives us the opportunity to do just that: to stand up for what we believe in. In contrast to the civil war in the Tory cabinet and the confusion of nationalists who argue we can share sovereignty with every European nation, except our nearest neighbours, Labour will campaign enthusiastically for our place in the European Union.

Of course there are a range of different views in our movement, but we are Scotland’s internationalist party. We believe in solidarity beyond borders. We believe that sharing sovereignty makes us all stronger, wealthier, safer.

We believe in Scotland’s place in the UK. For those of us who campaigned in the Scottish referendum, many of the arguments from those campaigning for exiting the European Union are eerie echoes of those we heard two years ago from some of those campaigning to leave the UK Union.


We defeated those arguments two years ago, but in doing so we learned that populist nationalists should never be underestimated. We know that even faced with the overwhelming weight of evidence they will refuse to concede anything to reasoned argument.

So in this debate we must win the arguments that appeal to the head, but we remember that they have to be combined with a story that reaches people’s hearts. We will make the economic case: that the importance of trade with the EU is essential to Scottish jobs, second only to our domestic market in the UK.

We will argue the case for workers’ rights – that Europe guarantees basic standards at work for millions of Scottish workers, and workers in other nations, regardless of who is in government. We will argue, that in a world of constant change and confusing new threats, we are more secure in bigger alliances than alone.

We will argue with reason, but also with passion. We will make these arguments, but we will also argue that there is something beautiful about being part of this European family. It isn’t found in the grey offices of officials in Brussels, or in the columns of national balance sheets, but in lives made more colourful, more fulfilling and exciting in the cities and towns of Scotland, the UK and 27 other nations.


My generation, and that of my parents before me, have become so used to that, that we don’t stop to wonder at the achievement that the EU represents. From Scandinavia to the Aegean. From the Balearics to the Arctic Circle. From the Carpathians to the Highlands. We co-operate, sharing freedom, together.

A continent whose history is written in conflict and chaos is now defined by peace and prosperity.

We have been part of that. We built that. It’s not perfect, of course it isn’t, but it is as extraordinary an achievement as any in our history.  We are a more European country for having built that union. We are richer for it: Not just the bump in our GDP, as important as that is, but richer for the shared experiences, the mixing of cultures, the people we’ve come to know, the amazing experiences and opportunities that the EU has brought to us.

I fear we may not realise that until it’s gone. So don’t listen to those who say that Scotland is going to vote overwhelmingly to remain on the 23rd of June. There’s no such thing as a guaranteed win in politics.

We may be weary as a nation after three national campaigns in as many years, but we need to do it all over again in the next 40 days. We will make the case, the Labour case for Scotland and the UK in Europe with conviction.