Nicola Sturgeon warns of EU exit ‘backlash’

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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned of a “strong backlash” if Scotland were to be taken out of the EU by an UK-wide referendum.

The SNP leader will use a speech in Brussels to say a vote to take the UK out of the European Union could cause a “groundswell of anger” in Scotland.

She believes it could produce a “clamour” for another vote on Scottish independence referendum.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised an in/out EU referendum.

The Tory leader said it would take place by the end of 2017.

During her speech in Brussels, Ms Sturgeon will say Scotland has much to offer the EU and “much to learn” from the example of its smaller member states.

She will call on Mr Cameron to agree to a “double majority” which would mean all four nations of the UK must back withdrawal before exit is possible.

Her speech comes days after Mr Cameron met a number of European leaders to canvass their views on reforming the European Union ahead of the UK vote.

In her first EU address as first minister, Ms Sturgeon will say that “positive changes” can be made from “within the existing treaty”.

She is also expected to raise this issue of Scotland’s long-running legal bid to have a minimum price for alcohol.

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The Scottish government is locked in a legal battle with Europe over setting a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June 2012.

However, it has not yet been enacted due to a legal challenge filed with the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The Scottish government embarked on minimum pricing because it said the “alcohol problem in Scotland is so significant that ground-breaking measures are now required”.

Ms Sturgeon’s speech will say: “The EU should focus on areas where joint working and co-operation will make a tangible difference to the lives of its citizens.

“In some areas, that means that the EU should leave member states with the autonomy to tackle pressing problems.

“Public health is a relevant example for Scotland and for other countries. Some years ago, the Scottish Parliament voted to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, to tackle alcohol harm in our society.

“Our ability to do that has been challenged, and is currently being considered by Scottish courts and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

“We know from their support for our case that many other member states support us. My view is that the Commission and EU policy should recognise that.

“They should give a higher priority to enabling member states to take the decisions they deem necessary to protect life and promote health.”

However, Scottish Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie said Ms Sturgeon’s speech only served to “highlight the contradictions in the SNP’s policies in relation to the UK and the EU”.

She added: “Whatever the cost, she wants to end our union with the United Kingdom.

“Yet, whatever the cost, it appears she wants to keep our union with the European Union.

“The first minister needs to come clean. Since she is so opposed to the UK and so supportive of the EU project, surely she should just admit that the SNP would dump the British pound and back the Euro.”

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