FORMER first minister Alex Salmond has dismissed David Cameron’s EU referendum strategy as “disastrous”, saying that the former prime minister failed to make the positive case for immigration.
In an exclusive interview for CommonSpace and Novara Media, released today, the former first minister said it was a mistake to call the referendum in the first place.
“You don’t conduct a referendum if you don’t want to change anything,” he said. You have a referendum if you want to achieve something really important, like independence for your country. The key thing is you must want a change. Cameron had a referendum proposing no change. That is disastrous policy.”
“Cameron’s milieu is untouched by immigration, is untouched by the lack of social housing.” Alex Salmond
The referendum saw the UK vote to Leave by 52 per cent to 48 per cent, with Scotland voting Remain by 62 per cent to 38 per cent. A key issue during the referendum was immigration, with the Leave campaign saying Brexit would mean regained control over borders.
When asked if the positive case for immigration had been lost, the former first minister said: “The case has been lost because it was never made.” He added that Cameron’s messaging on the economic impact of migration was misguided, saying that more should have been made of EU migrants’ economic contribution.
The former first minister said: “Do you on the one hand say, ‘well, we’ll make some fairly marginal change to the benefit system so we can stop Polish workers repatriating their child benefit’, or on the other hand say, ‘this immigration from Europe contributes £2.5bn net every year through their hard work in helping build our society’.”
He added that Cameron himself was out of touch with how these issues are perceived.
“Cameron’s milieu is untouched by immigration, is untouched by the lack of social housing, is untouched by the even marginal depressing effect on wages,” he said. “Cameron was incapable of doing anything about it because he fundamentally doesn’t understand it. It’s possible to present a difficult case well.”
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