By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has been left facing embarrassment after his Tory coalition partners launched a poster campaign promising an in/out referendum on EU membership.
On Friday the Conservative party announced it is to launch a poster campaign aimed at preventing Eurosceptic Tories from moving to UKIP.
The poster shows a referendum ballot-box marked ‘Europe: You Decide’ alongside the words: ‘An In-Out Referendum on Europe. Labour and the Lib Dems won’t. Ukip can’t. We will in 2017.’
However, in March, Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael told an NFUS audience that an In/Out referendum on Europe was not possible.
He said: “there is no question of there being a referendum; there is no mechanism for the Conservatives to deliver the referendum in 2017. That is the hard political fact.”
This move by David Cameron which has contradicted his Scottish Secretary, has been described by the SNP as the biggest threat to Scotland’s place in the EU.
A study by the University of Edinburgh this week examined support for remaining in the EU across the UK and found that while 40% of respondents in England wanted to leave the EU compared to 37% who wished to remain, in Scotland 48% of people wanted to remain in the EU compared to just 32% who want to leave.
Commenting, SNP Euro-election candidate Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said:
“The launch of this Tory campaign promising an in/out referendum has left Alistair Carmichael looking extremely silly and has confirmed that only a Yes vote in September will protect Scotland’s place in the EU.
“With his Tory partners now flatly contradicting what Alistair Carmichael told people just a few weeks ago, how can anybody trust a word that he or the LibDems say? He should stop trying to mislead people in Scotland and admit to the reality of the threat Westminster poses to Scotland’s place in the EU.”
On Friday Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls confirmed that a new Labour government could also hold a similar In/Out referendum on Europe.
Speaking during a campaign visit to Kent, Mr Balls said: “Our big focus is on jobs and living standards but we have said that if there is any transfer to Brussels in the next Parliament, then we will have an in-out referendum – that is a clear pledge from Labour.”
Both Labour and the Conservatives are looking to send a message to their core support who might be tempted to back UKIP as the Eurosceptic party led by Nigel Farage grows in popularity south of the border.
Ms Ahmed Sheik added: “The fact of the matter is that the biggest threat to Scotland’s continued place in the EU comes from a No vote that would leave Westminster calling the shots.
“The jobs of thousands of people across Scotland rely on being part of the EU. The last thing that people here want is to be dragged out of the EU against our will by Westminster’s anti-Europe agenda.
“That is why research from the University of Edinburgh this week found that support for remaining in the EU is significantly stronger in Scotland than in England.
“This year gives people in Scotland the chance to ensure that Scotland’s interests are no longer undermined by Westminster. A vote for a strong team of SNP MEPs on the 22nd of May and a Yes vote in September will let Scotland make our mark in Europe and ensure that our own distinctive voice is heard on the European stage.”