Kezia Dugdale MSP: Labour and SNP must join forces to secure a Remain vote
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale says political rivals must put their differences to one side to help keep Britain in the EU.
It’s only fourteen days until the EU referendum and it looks like it is going to go down to the wire. Over the past couple of weeks two things have become more and more clear: Labour voters across the UK are going to be crucial to determining the result, and Scottish votes could help take us over the line.
In the last EU referendum in 1975, Scotland was more Eurosceptic than any other part of the UK, and a higher proportion of people in the South East of England voted to be part of Europe. This time, we’re likely to see a reversal, but Remain campaigners in Scotland absolutely cannot be complacent.
This evening, Nicola Sturgeon will take part in the ITV EU debate in London. I’ll be there too, putting the case after her in the media spin room. With almost a third of Scottish voters still undecided, according to the latest poll, people need to hear Scottish political leaders make the case for Remain.
And this evening, it’s important SNP voters hear Nicola Sturgeon say loudly and clearly why she supports the EU. Only 51% of people who voted for the SNP last month say they will vote for remain in two weeks – the lowest of any party except the Tories. If Labour voters are going to be decisive across the UK, it will be Labour and SNP supporters who hold the balance in Scotland.
We need to motivate people to vote in this referendum, and to opt for Remain. Many people I’ve spoken to feel like they’ve been bombarded by statistics and by experts making claim and counterclaim. It’s absolutely essential that facts and analysis have a place in this debate, but this debate is about so much more than that. It's about who we are as a nation, how we interact with the world and the message we want to send out about how we will work out friends and neighbours.
I believe there is something beautiful about being part of this European family. Our lives have been made more colourful, more fulfilling and exciting in the cities and towns of Scotland, the UK and 27 other nations by being part of it.
The European Union can be distilled down to dry facts and statistics, or we can describe it as it really is. As an unprecedented alliance that brings together nations that once sent young men to die on battlefields to settle debates, and now instead finds agreement around a meeting table in Brussels. Gordon Brown has made this point forcefully in his campaign video and will make it again in Glasgow tonight. There is nothing inevitable about peace, and the EU’s contribution to peace in Europe shouldn’t be dismissed. We have replaced aggression with argument, and the whole world is stronger for it.
We can’t just look to the past to make people feel positive about the EU. We need to ask how it will make us feel about facing the challenges of the future. Apart from the technical difficulties that we would face in confronting challenges that don’t respect borders – from climate change to terrorism – we also need to ask how we would feel about sending a message to the world that we think we are better off dealing with them alone.
I believe – like a majority of people in Scotland – that we’re better facing these big challenges together with our friends and neighbours in both the EU and the UK. People want Scotland, and the UK, to be punching above its weight and having a voice internationally. Why would we turn away from the opportunity to lead one of the most influential international alliances? The Leave campaign knows that people care about the UK’s standing in the world and are trying to convince people that we can be big players outside the EU. I don’t believe a majority of people in the UK want to wake up on 24th June and feel like they have diminished our role in the world.
The TV debate tonight has to be about more than angry exchanges and sound bites. People across the country have the facts from both sides at their fingertips. Last night, Sarah Wollaston – who switched from Leave to Remain – said she asked herself how she would feel on 24th June if she woke up to a leave vote. She concluded that she would feel “a sense of loss”.
Tonight, it’s for Nicola Sturgeon and Angela Eagle to make the progressive case for working together – and make people feel positive about voting Remain in two weeks.
Kezia Dugdale is leader of the Scottish Labour Party & an MSP for the Edinburgh & Lothian Region