Scotland politics

MSP Margaret Mitchell backs UK leaving the European Union

Margaret Mitchell Image copyright Scottish Conservatives
Image caption Margaret Mitchell is the first Holyrood politician to speak publicly in favour of Brexit

A Conservative MSP has become the first Holyrood politician to speak publicly in favour of the UK leaving the European Union.

Margaret Mitchell, the party's justice spokeswoman, told BBC Scotland the EU was "unwieldy" and expensive.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson supports the UK remaining in the EU.

But she has also made it clear that other Tory MSPs are free to take a different view.

A UK referendum on whether to remain a member of the EU will take place on 23 June.

Analysis by Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland political correspondent

It's not exactly a Boris Johnson-style bombshell but it's not without significance.

Not only is Margaret Mitchell the first Conservative MSP to publicly back Brexit - she is also the first Holyrood politician of any party to do so.

Other MSPs may follow her example. But some of the staunchest Eurosceptics in her own party, like Murdo Fraser and Alex Johnstone, have already said they'll back the "in" campaign.

The leaders of all five Holyrood parties also support the UK's continued membership of the EU.

For one or two MSPs minded towards an "out" vote, it's a question of priority.

They judge that their campaign priority is the Holyrood election in May and intend to put all their effort into that before thinking about expending energy on June's EU referendum.

Mrs Mitchell, a former Scottish Conservative leadership contender, said she was open to persuasion but at the moment she would vote to leave.

The Central Scotland MSP told the BBC: "I'm not looking at renegotiation. I think it would be a vote to leave because there are too many advantages of coming out and too many restrictions about staying in.

"The free movement of people doesn't look to me as though it's something that's easily resolved.

"This is a union that's increasing all the time - it's unwieldy. Twenty-eight member states trying to make decisions that are in the best interests of each member state really doesn't work."

Image caption Eurosceptic Tory Alex Johnstone argued change was best achieved from within the EU

A second Conservative MSP, Cameron Buchanan, told the Times newspaper he would vote to leave the EU.

But he subsequently told the BBC he would back the campaign to remain.

Fellow Tory MSP Alex Johnstone, who is known for his Eurosceptic views, has said the UK should press for change while remaining within the European Union.

He said: "There's probably very few people are as Eurosceptic as I am. But my problem is that I know Europe will continue to be a problem for Britain whether we are in or out.

"So, if I want to see a failing European project turned around, if I want to see an end to fiscal and political convergence, if I want to see a Europe that works as a trading block, then I think it's in our interest to be on the inside, arguing our case for change instead of being on the outside, allowing Europe to have its head."

Image copyright Scottish Parliament
Image caption Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has spoken out in favour of the UK remaining in the EU

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson supports the UK's continued membership of the EU.

In a recent statement to the BBC, she said: "To me, the cost benefit analysis is clear. The advantages we gain from EU membership clearly and categorically outweigh any disadvantages that come with it.

"I campaigned for Scotland to stay part of a wider Union. And I believe Britain should stay part of a wider Union too".

At the time she said "many" of her parliamentary colleagues shared her view but were free to campaign in a personal capacity for an "out" vote.

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