Leaders of Scotland's main political parties clash over EU future

Alex Salmond was challenged by the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders at FMQs on Thursday.

Scottish Parliament
Gnomonic, http://www.flickr.com/photos/28120556@N08/

The leaders of Scotland's main political parties have clashed over the country's future in both the United Kingdom and Europe.

The day after Prime Minister David Cameron "completely changed" the independence debate in Scotland with his promise of an in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union if the Conservatives win the next general election, the issue dominated heated clashes at Holyrood.

The Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders all challenged Alex Salmond on the issue at First Minister's Questions.

Opponents of independence have raised doubts over what position Scotland would have in the EU if voters chose to leave the UK.

But Mr Salmond insisted the "threat" to Scotland's continued membership of the EU came not from independence, but from the Conservatives, who were "heading towards the exit door".

The SNP leader described the events of the last 24 hours as being "very interesting" in terms of the independence debate.

He told MSPs: "It indicates the threat to Scotland's continued membership of the European Union doesn't come from this Parliament, this Government or the people of Scotland.

"It comes from the banks of the Thames and a Tory coalition Government who are heading towards the exit door and a Labour opposition still to clarify what on earth they think about it."

Labour leader Johann Lamont pressed Mr Salmond on comments made by the Czech Republic's foreign minister, who said that Scotland would get a "worse deal" when negotiating its position within the EU because it was a "much smaller country with much less economic importance".

Meanwhile, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson challenged the First Minister to give the public a say on EU membership in a referendum after independence.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the SNP should agree to work with his party on securing greater powers in a strengthened Scottish Parliament in the UK.*

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