SCOTTISH Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has warned against underestimating the “populist nationalism” of those arguing for Brexit.
The Lothian MSP drew parallels between the current Leave campaign and the case made for Scottish independence in the 2014 referendum.
Launching Labour In for Scotland alongside Labour In for Britain chair Alan Johnson, she said the party would make the positive case for the EU in the face of the “confusion” of nationalists and the “civil war” in the Tory Party.
She said: “We are Scotland’s internationalist party. We believe in solidarity beyond borders. We believe that sharing sovereignty makes us all stronger, wealthier and safer. We believe in Scotland’s place in the UK. For those of us who campaigned in the Scottish referendum, many of the arguments from those campaigning for Brexit are eerie echoes of those we heard two years ago from some of those campaigning to leave the UK. We defeated those arguments two years ago, but in doing so we learned that populist nationalism should never be underestimated.
“We know that even faced with the overwhelming weight of evidence, it refuses to concede anything to reasoned argument.”
Ms Dugdale said that in some arguments made by the Brexit lobby, the “playbook” of the Scottish referendum was being brought out again. And she suggested stronger support for the EU here meant Scots campaigners had a greater responsibility to make the positive case for Europe.
She said: “Actually I wish the SNP would do more of this, because all I’ve heard them do so far is be really negative about how negative the European campaign has been rather than set out the arguments from their perspective about why we should remain as part of the EU.”
One recent survey put the Remain vote as high as 76 per cent in Scotland, while some surveys show the two sides are neck and neck south of the Border. Mr Johnson said there could be no complacency in the campaign. “So much is at stake,” he said. “We will make our case in an emotional and powerful way because the consequences of this decision will outlast this generation of political leaders and impact so profoundly on our future.”
The former home secretary said that in addition to the importance of the EU for Scottish jobs, investment, safety, security and workers’ rights, the debate was “about what kind of country we want to be”.
Brexit would leave the UK “a small island, shut off from the continent, proud of our past, but unsure about the future”.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon responded to Ms Dugdale via Twitter, saying: “Can’t Lab do anything any more without having a go at the SNP? We’re already making positive case –hope they join us.”