By a Newsnet reporter
The anti-independence campaign has been “impaled by its own arguments”, the SNP has said, following calls from ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson for the UK to leave the EU.
In an article in Tuesday’s Times newspaper, Mr Lawson – who sits in the House of Lords as Lord Lawson – argued that the benefits of a UK departure “would substantially outweigh the costs”, and added, “The case for exit is clear.”
Mr Lawson’s intervention is likely to embolden Eurosceptic MPs on the Conservative backbenches and increase the pressures on the Prime Minister to adopt a tougher line on EU issues. The former Conservative Chancellor is the most senior Conservative to have come out openly in favour of a UK withdrawal from the EU.
The Prime Minister has vowed to renegotiate the UK’s terms of membership of the EU, and to hold a referendum on any new settlement after the next UK General Election. However Mr Lawson predicted any changes achieved by David Cameron’s attempts to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s relations with the EU would be “inconsequential” and has decided to put his weight behind the campaign to seek an exit from the EU.
Mr Cameron was already facing increased calls to bring forward the promised referendum on the UK’s EU membership following the success of the UK Independence Party in last week’s local elections in England.
In a sign of the increasing political gulf between Scotland and the rest of the UK, the right wing populist party scored 24% of the vote in the local election, outpolling the Lib Dems and becoming the third largest party.
Opinion polls continue to show that UKIP, which also seeks the effective abolition of the Scottish Parliament, enjoys minimal support north of the Border. However the party’s success in England means that the main UK parties will be forced to make accommodations to UKIP policies in an attempt to prevent the party eating into their electoral bases.
Although Mr Lawson’s article was aimed at increasing the pressure on the Conservatives to adopt a harder line on EU membership, it has also increased the pressures on anti-independence campaigners by highlighting contradictions in claims made by Alistair Darling, Chair of the No campaign.
Mr Darling and the anti-independence campaign have repeatedly claimed that one of the key benefits of Scotland being part of the United Kingdom is its place in the European Union.
However, the recent moves from senior Conservatives to adopt policies designed to attract wavering Conservative voters who are attracted by the anti-EU party UKIP make it clear that Scotland cannot guarantee continuing EU membership by voting to remain a part of the UK in 2014.
Angus Robertson MP, the SNP’s Westminster Leader, said:
“After months of scaremongering about Scotland’s relationship with the EU, the anti-independence campaign has now been impaled by its own arguments.
“Alistair Darling – rightly – has stressed the importance of being a part of the single market, but calls from Lord Lawson adds pressure to the No campaign.
“By allying himself with a right-wing Eurosceptic party in the anti-independence campaign, Mr Darling wants to take Scotland down a path which will lead to it becoming isolated in the UK, when what we need is a strong voice in Europe with independence.
“Only a Yes vote in 2014 can secure Scotland’s successful future as an independent country and a guaranteed member of the EU.”