Nicola Sturgeon: 'Brexit Is a Right-Wing Tory Takeover'

Nicola Sturgeon
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gives an address at the European Policy Center in Brussels, Belgium June 2, 2015. She is making the positive case for staying in the EU. Yves Herman/Reuters

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I believe countries should be independent—but I also believe that, in the modern world, independent countries must work together.

The Leave campaign wants to focus on what we supposedly lose by being in the EU. I ask you to think more about what we have gained.

EU membership means access to the world's biggest single market, with 500 million people to sell our goods and services to on the same terms as France or Germany—creating jobs and making the UK an attractive place to invest. But it also means guaranteed standards across the continent, with workplace and social rights—such as paid holidays or parental leave— embedded across the EU.

And that takes us to the heart of the issue. The idea that people like Boris Johnson want to leave the EU because they care about the NHS, or about improving wages and working conditions for workers in Britain, is clearly nonsense.

When the Leave campaign talk about reducing the so-called burdens of regulation or red tape, they're talking about your rights in the workplace—minimum standards on paid holidays, protections against discrimination, workplace rights during pregnancy or maternity and paternity leave for parents.

A vote to Leave wouldn't just be a vote to narrow our horizons but would be a green light to these right-wing politicians to force a race to the bottom on everything from social rights to environmental protections.

Being a part of the European Union is good for women. From maternity and paternity leave for parents, workplace rights during pregnancy, to rules protecting against harassment and unequal treatment, women in Britain benefit from the EU.

And our membership matters to the millions of UK citizens who live, work and study across Europe who depend on the freedom of movement that comes with being an EU citizen.

This freedom of movement works both ways, and has been enormously beneficial to the UK economy.

The way the Leave campaign have tried to ramp up a fear of immigration has been disgraceful—but the truth is that if you see an immigrant in a hospital, they're far more likely to be working there than being treated.

The time has come to brand the "Brexit" campaign for what it is—a bid for a right-wing Tory takeover of the reins of power in the UK and to dismantle the hard-worn social gains of the last few decades.

The people leading the case for a vote to leave are on the right of the Conservative Party and will take an "out" vote as their signal to make their power grab complete.

Make no mistake—a "Leave" win would be a victory for politicians who actually believe George Osborne and David Cameron are moderates, and it would leave Scotland at their mercy.

Outside the EU but within the UK, with most economic power still concentrated at Westminster, Scotland would be left vulnerable to the most right-wing Tory Government in modern history.

And if we leave Europe, they will take it as a green light to scrap workers' rights and employment protection, slash public spending as part of their ideologically driven austerity obsession—and would target Scotland for extra cuts.

The fact is that if the EU didn't exist we'd be desperate to find a way to better cooperate with our neighbours on the big issues—like climate change or security—that no country can deal with alone.

For the SNP the choice on June 23 is simple: does being a member of the EU help to make Scotland and the rest of the UK fairer, more prosperous, greener and safer?

The resounding answer is yes. That is why we'll be working tirelessly between now and polling day making the positive case for EU membership—and that's why I'm confident that people in Scotland will vote to continue to work in partnership with our friends and neighbours across the continent.

Scotland needs to send as strong a message as possible that we reject the right-wing agenda of the pro-Brexit Tories entirely —and the only way to do that is for people to vote in big numbers to stay in Europe.

And in doing so, we can also help the progressive case for EU membership right across the UK.