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Nicola Sturgeon's EU election launch address

Good afternoon. Welcome to the launch of the SNP's campaign for the European Parliament election. At this election the SNP offers a message of hope and ambition.

Hope for a better country. And ambition for the positive role Scotland can and must play in Europe and the wider world. This is by far the most important European election in Scotland's history.

At stake is not just which parties and which candidates will be elected to the European Parliament. At stake also is whether Scotland can remain inside the European Union at all. On May the 23 rd by voting SNP, people in Scotland can send a clear and unequivocal message to Theresa May.

That message is this: Scotland has had enough of being ignored. Scotland has had enough of the Westminster chaos.

And Scotland does not want Brexit. On May 23, vote SNP to show that Scotland will not be ignored any more. Vote SNP to stop Brexit.

Vote SNP to keep Scotland at the heart of Europe. At the EU referendum in 2016 people in Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain. There were remain majorities in every single local authority area.

No one is pretending that the EU is a perfect institution - no system of government is. But being part of it has brought real benefits. It means we are members of a Single Market of 500 million people - eight times the size of the UK alone, and the world's largest trading bloc.

It boosts jobs and investment. It gives us access to 40 free trade agreements with other countries. It ensures protection for workers and the environment;

Educational opportunities for young people through the Erasmus scheme; And research collaborations at our universities. It delivers support for our rural economy with access to markets and backing for our farmers and our food producers

It opens access to hundreds of millions of pounds of investment to regenerate our towns, grow our economy and help people into work. And of course, it safeguards freedom of movement - which has benefitted not only us, but our economy and our public services. With freedom of movement, all of us are able to live, work, study and go on holiday across the European Union - with the minimum of fuss and no charge for visas.

Freedom of movement has contributed to Scotland's vibrant cultural diversity, boosted staffing in our NHS and social care sector and helped to reverse population decline. On May the 23 rd let's not demonise the contribution our fellow EU citizens have made to Scotland - let's instead celebrate that contribution, reject the Tories "hostile environment" and back those who have chosen to make their homes here. The Labour Party, like the Tories, wants to put an end to freedom of movement.

Indeed, it is striking - and depressing - just how close together Labour and the Tories are on Brexit. On this defining issue Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have much more in common than they like to pretend. They both want to take Scotland out of the EU.

They both favour a hard Brexit with Scotland removed from the Single Market. But Labour should be in no doubt - if it becomes the handmaiden to a Tory Brexit, it will never be forgiven, not in Scotland and not by hundreds of thousands of young people across the UK. On the issue of a new referendum on EU membership Labour's position is also confused, trying to face both ways at once.

So on this issue let me make the SNP position clear. If a Brexit deal is agreed by Westminster it must be put back to the people. No ifs, no buts - the people must have the final say in a People's Vote.

Over the coming weeks we will work with others to keep the whole of the UK in the EU. Throughout the last three years we have demonstrated a willingness to co-operate with other parties who share that aim and we will continue to do so. I do not for a second dismiss the views of those who voted to leave the European Union.

As SNP leader I of course share the desire for change, for enhanced sovereignty and for a much greater sense of control over our lives here in Scotland. These are all important and legitimate concerns that have to be addressed. But the last three years of Westminster chaos have not brought any positive change.

Instead of sovereignty being returned to Scotland we have witnessed a Westminster Tory power grab on the Scottish Parliament. And far from enjoying greater control, people in Scotland have been at the mercy of an all-out Tory civil war. The Tories have ignored Scotland's vote to remain.

But they've not stopped there. They've ignored Scotland's interests ever since. Votes in the Scottish Parliament have been disregarded.

The Scottish Government's compromise proposals have been cast aside. And issues raised by businesses, universities and charities have been given short shrift. So on May 23 whether you voted Remain or Leave we can send a message to the Tories:

Scotland is not prepared to be ignored any longer. Our voice will be heard. The fact is the Tories now think they can do anything to Scotland and get away with it.

And Labour is divided and all at sea. By contrast, the SNP has a positive, optimistic vision of Scotland's future as a proud European nation. Today is Europe day - a day that marks the coming together of nations large and small to share values and to protect freedoms.

Scotland may lie on the edge of Europe, but we have always been - and want to remain - at its heart. Over the last few decades it has been SNP MEPs who have given Scotland a voice in Europe's Parliament. In this election, the SNP is putting forward candidates who will keep up that tradition.

Indeed, it is only because of the relentless determination of one of our SNP MEPs, and other Scottish Parliamentarians, that we now know Article 50 can be revoked and Brexit can be stopped. And on this, the SNP is clear - if the only alternative is a no deal Brexit, Article 50 should be revoked. The SNP is putting forward a team who will fight for what Scotland needs in Europe.

Who will stand up for our workers, Fight for a fair deal for our farmers. Protect our fishing communities - who have been let down time and time again by the Tories.

And who will put the future and opportunities of our young people at the heart of everything we do. For independent countries of Scotland's size, being a member of the EU means a seat at the top table, a voice to promote our national interests and the status of an equal partner in a collective of independent states. The treatment of Scotland by the Tory government throughout the whole Brexit process, compared with the solidarity shown by the EU to Ireland, has shone a light on why Scotland should be an independent country.

Later this year, when Scotland could be taken out of the EU, Finland - a country the same size as Scotland - will be taking on the presidency. Following Finland, it will be Croatia's turn. Nations of similar size to Scotland - to coin a phrase - not leaving the EU, but leading it.

For Scotland, contributing to, and benefiting from, the EU will be just one of the great advantages of being an independent country. That is why we are determined to give the people the choice of that independent future later in this term of the Scottish Parliament. But whatever your view on independence the election on May 23 is an opportunity to make Scotland's voice heard.

A vote for the SNP is a vote to reject the shambles and chaos Westminster has inflicted on Scotland and indeed the whole of the UK. It's a vote for co-operation in all our interests. So this is a golden opportunity.

Let us make our voice heard loud and clear so that we are not ignored by Westminster any longer. And let us send this message - Scotland's not for Brexit.

Scotland's for Europe.

On May 23, if you want to keep Scotland in the EU - vote SNP.

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