Row over Sturgeon’s Brexit ‘Tory takeover’ warning

Media captionMs Sturgeon warned of a “Tory takeover” – but was criticised by Mr Sillars

Nicola Sturgeon has provoked controversy after saying the UK voting to leave the European Union could risk a “right-wing Tory takeover”.

The SNP first minister said the referendum was “on a knife-edge”, with some polls suggesting Leave is leading.

She was attacked by former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars, who said she was using Tory-style fear tactics.

Ms Sturgeon said Brexit could “leave Scotland at the mercy” of “the most right-wing Tory government”.

Scottish Vote Leave dismissed Ms Sturgeon’s comments as “Project McFear” and a “desperate bid to scare voters”.

And Mr Sillars, who is campaigning for Brexit, said he was “disappointed” in Ms Sturgeon for resorting to “the tactic she previously deplored”.

Opinion polls have suggested a swing towards the Brexit vote in recent days, with just over a week to go until the referendum on 23 June.

Ms Sturgeon said the Leave campaign was being driven by elements on the right wing of the Conservative party, who would take a vote to leave the EU as “their signal to make their power grab complete”.

She said she was committed to making a positive case for EU membership, but said that “we have to be really open about the consequences” of a Brexit – which she said could include Boris Johnson as prime minister.

‘In the firing line’

The first minister said: “Make no mistake – a Leave win would be a victory for politicians who actually believe George Osborne and David Cameron are moderates, and it would leave Scotland at their mercy.

“Outside EU but within the UK, with most economic power still concentrated at Westminster, Scotland would be left vulnerable to the most right-wing Tory government in modern history.

“And if we leave Europe, they will take it as a green light to scrap workers’ rights and employment protection, slash public spending as part of their ideologically driven austerity obsession, and would target Scotland for extra cuts.

“There should be no doubt in people’s minds – if Leave wins, then Scottish workers and family budgets will be in the firing line.”

Image caption

Scottish Conservative MSP Ross Thomson said Ms Sturgeon’s comments were “absolutely extraordinary”

Mr Sillars, a leading figure in the SNP since the 1980s, is campaigning for the UK to leave the EU. He said Ms Sturgeon was an “excellent” first minister, but expressed disappointment in her tactics.

He said: “I deeply regret that Nicola seems to have resorted to the tactic which she previously deplored, and in doing so has fallen from her own high standard.

“She has deployed the whiplash of fear to drive people to vote for Remain by implying that Brexit will bring a reformed Tory government to power, which would destroy worker’s rights.”

Mr Sillars said the rights of workers were more at risk from EU regulations than they would be from a Leave vote, and argued that there was no chance that a future UK government would roll back rules on holiday or maternity pay.

Tom Harris, director of Scottish Vote Leave, said Ms Sturgeon’s recourse to “Project McFear” was “disappointing”, saying she was trying to “distract from the failing message of the Remain campaign”.

And fellow Leave campaigner Mr Thomson said Ms Sturgeon’s comments were “absolutely extraordinary”, insisting that after the referendum, “government carries on as normal”.

Row over Sturgeon’s Brexit ‘Tory takeover’ warning}

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