By Bob Duncan
Threats from UK Chancellor George Osborne to pull the UK out of Europe are evidence that Westminster is the only significant threat to Scotland’s continued EU membership, the SNP has claimed.
The accusation follows comments from Mr Osborne in which the Tory MP warned that unless the EU adopted sweeping reforms then the UK would no longer continue as a member.
In an interview with the German newspaper Die Bild, Mr Osborne said: “I very much hope Britain remains a member of the EU. But in order that we can remain in the European Union, the EU must change.”
The threat is the latest evidence of the growing influence of Eurosceptic backbenchers within the Conservative party. There is also an increasing likelihood that PM David Cameron will pledge a referendum on the EU as part of the party’s next manifesto.
Last week concerns over the future relationship between the UK and the EU sparked criticism from both the United States and Germany.
The Westminster government has been gradually distancing itself from the EU and David Cameron is soon expected to reveal plans on whether he will hold a referendum on withdrawing from the European Union altogether.
Reports have also indicated that Labour leader Ed Miliband is himself considering calling for an in/out referendum on EU membership.
Key international partners have publicly warned that Westminster is in danger of becoming isolated and inward looking.
Philip Gordon, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, expressed Washington’s concern over the possibility of the UK leaving the EU, hinting such a move would harm the transatlantic ‘Special Relationship’.
Germany has warned the UK Government against trying to “blackmail” the European Union in order to get a new settlement with Brussels, stressing a British exit would be a disaster.
The stance of the two main Unionist parties at Westminster could prove uncomfortable for the anti-independence campaign which has focused much of its attention on the status of an independent Scotland within the EU, arguing that a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum could see Scotland having to re-apply for EU membership.
Commenting, SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod said:
“George Osborne’s comments are extraordinary – he has explicitly nodded towards the UK leaving the EU. It is now clear that the Tory government in London is on a collision course with the European Union and this is likely to lead to incalculable damage being done to Scotland’s European interests.
“It is clear for all to see that the real threat to Scotland’s relationship and continued membership of the EU is the Tory-led Westminster system.
“We have heard Germany and the US openly criticise the idea of the UK leaving the EU.
“Westminster politicians are determined to chase a policy of EU withdrawal that will lead to international isolation.
“Just as such an approach is not in their interests, it is overwhelmingly not in Scotland’s interests. The only way that people in Scotland will be able to safeguard ourselves from such damaging isolation is with a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in 2014.
“In contrast, an independent Scotland will work with our partners and ensure we always have a voice at the top tables of Europe so that the needs of people in Scotland are always pursued.”