Scotland Fight To Stay In The EU

Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government will make a "strong and positive'' case for the UK to remain in the EU to prevent Scotland being forced out against its will.

The First Minister was speaking as she delivered her first major economic speech since the SNP's landslide election victory in Scotland and a day before the new Conservative Government's Queen's Speech.

Speaking at Heart of Midlothian FC's Tynecastle stadium, Ms Sturgeon set out three priority areas in which she said the Scottish Government would seek outcomes at a UK level to benefit the Scottish economy.

The SNP leader said the election outcome offered "an opportunity and a challenge'' for the Scottish Government.

She said: "There is clearly an opportunity to ensure that Scotland's priorities are better understood but there is also a significant challenge in working with a majority Government at Westminster, many of whose policies we disagree with.''

She said her Government would continue to oppose austerity, campaign for the UK to remain in the EU and press for additional powers for Scotland.

She reiterated her opposition to the Tories' in-out referendum on UK membership of the EU, and said her Government would "work to protect Scotland's interests''.

She said: "We will propose a double majority, meaning that exit from the European Union is only possible if all four nations of the UK agree to it - something which would ensure that Scotland couldn't be forced out of the EU against our will.

"And during the run-up to the referendum, the Scottish Government will, of course, make a strong and a positive case for staying in the EU.

"We don't think it's perfect, we think reform is both desirable and necessary, but we believe very strongly that Scotland's interests are best served by being members of the European Union and we will argue that case strongly and positively.''

She said she would expand on that case in a speech in Brussels next week.

The First Minister continued: "We will continue to oppose spending reductions of the scale and speed that the UK Government has suggested.

"We believe that these will slow economic recovery and make deficit reduction more difficult - and this has been demonstrated already by the impact of the cuts that have been imposed since 2010.

"And if the UK Government does stick to its current proposals, we will argue for ways in which the impact on Scotland can be lessened.''

Ms Sturgeon said the Government would continue to seek greater powers for Scotland and ensure that the recommendations for further devolution made by the Smith Commission are delivered in full.

She added: "We are also seeking additional responsibilities - beyond those which the Smith Commission identified.

"In particular, we believe that greater power over business taxes, employment law, the minimum wage and welfare would enable us to better create jobs, grow the economy and lift people out of poverty.''

The First Minister was speaking as she launched a new industry code calling on businesses to commit to paying the living wage and promoting fair practices.

Companies will be encouraged to sign the Scottish Business Pledge, described as a voluntary code for employers to recognise "fair and progressive'' policies while boosting productivity.

The First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney met Ann Budge, chairwoman and chief executive of football club Heart of Midlothian as it became one of the first companies to commit to the pledge.

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