Tommy Sheppard bids to persuade undecideds to vote Remain

Tommy Sheppard. Picture: Neil Hanna
Tommy Sheppard. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Pro-remain campaigner Tommy Sheppard has pledged to take opposition arguments “head-on” as he tries to persuade undecided voters to back staying in the EU.

The Edinburgh East SNP MP is holding a meeting tonight targeted at the estimated 15-20 per cent of people still not sure how they will vote in tomorrow’s referendum.

Mr Sheppard accused the right wing of playing to “base fears and prejudices”

He said: “I’m determined not to pussyfoot around on this, I want to confront the main things that have been talked about head-on.

“The Leave campaign suggest the net benefit to the UK would by £10 billion. That amount would be washed away just by the caps put on exports and visa charges for people going on holiday to EU countries. The reason we are a net contributor is that a lot of that money help seconomic and social programmes in countries that are less well off than us – and the objective there is not some misguided philanthropy, the objective is to bring these countries up so they are in a position to buy goods and services from us.”

He said there had been “a lot of bogus nonsense talked about sovereignty”. He argued the referendum itself showed that sovereignty lies with the people – and that was not going to change. “What we are being asked to do is, as a sovereign country, use some of our powers to work together with other sovereign countries because we can achieve things better that way.”

And on immigration, he said out of hundreds of people who had turned to him for help over benefits, healthcare or other services only a handful were from other EU countries.

“That’s because by and large the people coming here from the EU are young couples working hard and helping to make Edinburgh the vibrant city that it is.”

Mr Sheppard said there had been a “very ugly undercurrent of racism” in the campaign. “That needs to be tackled, people need to come together and confront that, get it out and deal with it.”

But he said there were some legitimate concerns about the EU. “If we stay in we need to stop being passive recipients and become active participants. The SNP should be linking up with other progressive parties in Europe to press for changes.”

He said EU rules should allow national governments to help key industries. “We cannot have a situation where the EU makes it illegal to put money into our steel industry.

“We need to look at how we have a sensible international trading agreement but governments have the ability to safeguard designated industries or services.”

And he urged critics who accused the EU of being too friendly to big business to accept such a situation was not inevitable. “It is not anything inherent to do with the EU that it has been so pro-corporate, it’s because that’s where politics is at the moment. And that politics needs to change.”

Tonight’s meeting, also to be addressed by Edinburgh Eastern SNP MSP Ash Denham and Nationalist MEP Alyn Smith, is at Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge, at 7.30pm.