SNP Sets Up Fight With Cameron Over 'Knee-Jerk Rejection' of EU Referendum Veto

Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon walks outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland October 15, 2014. Russell Cheyne/Reuters

The Scottish National Party (SNP) will table an amendment to give Scotland veto power in a referendum over the UK's exit from the European Union, if a bill were to be brought before parliament after next election the party's deputy leader, Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday.

In a bid to give "proper protection" to Scots from leaving the EU "against their will" the SNP will request that all four countries of the UK must agree on a the result, "not just the UK as a whole".

But hours after the SNP's announcement British prime minister David Cameron was quick to reject Sturgeon's proposal, saying: "We are one United Kingdom. There will be one in/out referendum (for the EU) and that will be decided on a majority of those who vote."

"That is how the rules should work," Cameron said, speaking in the House of Commons.

The SNP's Pete Wishart MP criticised Cameron for his "knee-jerk rejection" to a "perfectly reasonable and balanced proposal to reflect Scotland's interests in Europe".

Sturgeon, who will become first minister of Scotland, once SNP leader Alex Salmond steps down in November, said that "it is entirely possible that the UK as a whole could vote to exit the EU, but that Scotland would vote to stay".

"The impact of an exit on jobs and on the economy would be disastrous and to be taken out against our wishes would be democratically indefensible," Sturgeon added before accusing Westminster parties of "dancing to Ukip's tune" on EU issues. Both Cameron's Conservatives and, to a lesser extent, the opposition Labour Party are facing a challenge from the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (Ukip) at the general election in May next year.

"It is clear from recent by-elections in England that the anti-European politics of Ukip is on the rise," Sturgeon said, referring to Ukip's successful campaign in Clacton-by-Sea earlier in October.

"An in/out referendum on EU membership in 2017 now seems inevitable - almost regardless of who wins the general election next May," Sturgeon added.

Sturgeon's intervention comes at a difficult period in relations between Britain and the EU after the UK was landed with a bill of €2.1 billion euros to pay towards the EU budget due to the economy performing better than expected. Cameron angrily rejected the demand, saying he would refuse to pay it by the December 1st deadline.

SNP MSP Christial Allard told Newsweek Europe the rowed summed up "Westminster's spectacular incompetence on Europe".

"David Cameron says it 'landed on him by surprise' – despite his government having signed off on [the agreement] in May. The truth is the Treasury wanted the economic statistics massaged upwards to make them look better, they ignored the warnings about the consequences, waved these budget arrangements through in May, and now UK taxpayers have ended up with a huge bill because of this Tory incompetence."

"The SNP has always been clear that Scotland should have its own voice in the EU," Allard added.

"Which is why one of the key tests of the new powers which have been promised to Scotland is that they should allow us to speak with a stronger, clearer voice in Europe, rather than being solely represented by a Westminster establishment which doesn't represent Scotland's interests."

Scotland's potential EU membership was one of the key points of contention during September's independence referendum, in which 55% of Scots voted against independence, while 45% voted for.

During the final stages of the independence referendum, Cameron joined main party leaders in promising fiscal federalism to Scotland, should it remain part of the UK - a promise which has not yet been delivered.

Support for the pro-independence SNP has increased since the referendum, despite the negative result with the party now having the third highest membership in the UK.