Nicola Sturgeon says EU referendum in June would be a mistake

Nicola Sturgeon interview

Nicola Sturgeon warned David Cameron on Sunday that he would be making a mistake if he tried holding his EU referendum in June.

With speculation mounting that No 10 has pencilled in Thursday 23 June as a favourite contender for the referendum date, the Scottish first minister said this would be “disrespectful” to her country because it meant campaigning would cut across the Scottish elections.

She also said that Cameron needed more time to focus public attention away from the minutiae of his EU renegotiation and instead on the broad, positive case for Britain remaining in the EU.

In a wide-ranging interview on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, Sturgeon said that it might look “a bit selfish” to be concerned about the clash with the Scottish elections, but that there were elections in Wales, Northern Ireland and London too in May. “I think to have a referendum campaign starting in parallel would be disrespectful to those important elections,” she said.

There was a second reason for delaying too, she said.

“It would be better for David Cameron, if he does get a deal at the February European Council, to leave more time between that deal and the point of decision,” she said.

“One of the big problems I see for the in campaign is that, as far as David Cameron is concerned, it is very much focused on these narrow issues of renegotiation when in actual fact if the in campaign is going to prevail, this is going to have to become a ‘positive in principle’ campaign about why it’s better for the UK to stay within the European Union.”

In the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 the no campaign ran “a thoroughly negative, fear-laden campaign” and almost lost, she said. If the EU In campaign was equally negative, it would lose, she said.

Cameron hopes to wrap up his EU renegotiation at a summit in Brussels next month, which would allow time for a referendum to be held in June. An alternative would be to hold it in September, but June would have the advantage of coming ahead of a possible summer migration crisis, which could help the out campaign. George Osborne, the chancellor, is reportedly also very keen to go early in case the economy falters.

In her interview, Sturgeon restated her belief that, if the UK were to vote to leave while Scotland wanted to stay, that would trigger “an overwhelming demand” for a second Scottish independence referendum.

The SNP leader criticised Labour, saying that she did not think “Labour as a government right now is a credible notion in any sense” and that Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that a government could renew the Trident submarines without equipping them with missiles was ridiculous.

She refused to back calls from her predecessor Alex Salmond for the US presidential contender Donald Trump to be banned from the UK because of his comments about Muslims. But she did add: “I have every confidence that the good sense of the American people will prevail on the question of Donald Trump.”

She confirmed that the Scottish and UK government had yet to agree the “fiscal framework” that would apply to Scotland under the new devolution settlement in the Scotland bill. Those negotiations, which will determine how much Scotland gets in its block grant from Westminster in years to come after it starts raising more income itself through its new tax powers, are meant to be concluded by the middle of February.

Sturgeon said that if Scotland was not offered an acceptable deal, she would seek to block the deal.

“I am still hopeful that we can reach this deal and the Scottish government will be busting a gut over the next couple of weeks to try to get to a deal, but we will need to see more movement, significantly more movement from the UK government than we’ve seen so far and if we don’t get that – I repeat again – I will not sign up to something that is unfair to Scotland,” she said.

Sturgeon also called for a “fundamental look” at the tax that North Sea oil companies have to pay in the light of the crisis the industry faces because of low oil prices.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Andrew Sparrow Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Sunday 24th January 2016 11.48 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010