Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson calls for positive campaign for EU membership

Potential embarrassment for Cameron as senior Tory breaks ranks


David Cameron faces potential embarrassment as the Conservative party leader in Scotland has today argued for the UK to remain in the European Union, whatever the outcome of the prime minister’s negotiations.

Speaking in Brussels, Ruth Davidson has called for the campaign to keep the UK in the EU to be a positive one.

Addressing an event organised by the New Direction think-tank, Ms Davidson outlined her priorities for EU membership as being supporting Scottish jobs.

She explained:

“The European Union has faced and is facing some of its most difficult times as we speak.

The financial crisis exposed the fault lines with the euro. The current migration crisis has exposed the fault lines with the Schengen agreement.

It is hard to contest the point made by some that the EU is a fair-weather union – one which works fine when times are good, but which has no durability when the going gets tough.

But I find myself falling on the side of those who believe the union can – indeed must – find a way to work.

She continued:

“I want to make it easier for Britain’s makers and sellers and do-ers to get their product to market.

So, what I want is a better European Union which puts trade and the single market top of its agenda, with a stronger United Kingdom at its heart, showing it is open for business and open to the world.

To me, the cost benefit analysis is clear. The advantages we gain from EU membership clearly and categorically outweigh any disadvantages that come with it.

So, for my part, I will be backing our national interest and urging Britain to stay within that reformed EU.

We shouldn’t simply treat the EU as a dead weight, with the process of reform only being to lessen the negative impact it has upon on us.

We should also be outlining the prize that awaits us if we get EU reform right.

So, it’s my view that, as we approach the referendum, we must not lose sight of the economic benefits we get from being part of the EU.”

Such a pro-European argument from a Conservative whose stock is rising across Scotland will serve only to heap further pressure on David Cameron who has repeatedly refused to explain under what circumstances he might possibly find himself campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.

It comes as the prime minister will today meeting French president Francois Hollande at Chequers to discuss his ongoing reform agenda ahead of a referendum.

Responding to Ms Davidson’s speech, a spokesperson for Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish government’s Secretary for Europe and External Affairs, argued that it was a bit rich given that:

“the only reason Scotland’s EU membership is under threat in the first place is because the Tories have failed to make the positive case for Europe for so long, and have instead allowed themselves to be dragged along by a UKIP-driven agenda at Westminster.”

The spokesperson continued:

“Ms Davidson’s pledge to make a positive case is welcome, but if she was really serious about protecting Scotland’s place in the EU she would back our proposal that the UK could only leave the EU if all four nations of the UK agreed to it.

Last week, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon argued that if Scotland found itself leaving the EU against its will, ‘demand for a second independence referendum could well be unstoppable.’

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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