Leading Leave campaigner Michael Gove has insisted Scotland could still come out in favour of exiting the European Union as the “enthusiasm and momentum” gathers behind the campaign just nine days before the crunch vote.
The Aberdonian cabinet minister said the decision remains on a “knife-edge” among Scots despite most polls showing clear support for remaining in the EU north of the Border.
Mr Gove hit the campaign trail in Glasgow yesterday and revealed how the issue was “personal” to him after the EU brought about the demise of his father’s fisheries business as a result of the “open seas” common fisheries policy.
“The question of how Scotland votes and the question of the whole of the UK votes is entirely open at the moment,” he said.
“I’m struck by the fact that the enthusiasm and momentum seems to be behind the Leave side.”
The latest polls, across the UK, suggest the Leave campaign is in front, with time running out for Remain to seize back the initiative.
“The ultimate result is on a knife edge,” Mr Gove added.
The Justice Secretary insisted a Leave vote, even if Scotland votes to stay, will not give the SNP a mandate for a second independence referendum, but said the Scottish Parliament will “gain in powers.”
He added: “It will have control over agriculture, fisheries, potentially some social areas. It seems to me that if you’re aim is to strengthen Holyrood then voting to leave the EU is a surefire way of allowing the Scottish agriculture minister to take back control of agriculture and fisheries.”
Mr Gove admitted that the impact of EU policies on the fishing industry in his native North-east made the issue more acute for him. “I remember when I went university that there were people talking about Europe in a quite abstract terms. The reality of Europe for me had been seeing people lose their jobs.”
He insisted Scotland could enjoy new controls over immigration if the UK leaves the EU.
He said: “Under any proposals we put forward we believe that a points-based immigration policy, similar to the one that was actually put forward as a model for an independent Scotland by Nicola Sturgeon, would be the right approach.”
“Former first mninister Alex Salmond said:“The Lord Chancellor is talking nonsense on ermine-clad stilts – what is standing in the way of Scotland having the immigration powers we need isn’t the EU, it’s the UK government.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Michael Gove is trying to convince us that he is open to more immigration when in reality he favours the harshest anti-migrant policy you can possibly imagine.
“The truth is that a vote to leave the EU would put our immigration policy in the hands of a Tory Party in thrall to Nigel Farage.
“If Michael Gove seriously expects us to believe that this would result in Scotland getting greater control over immigration then he is delusional.”