THE UK’s membership of the EU was overwhelmingly backed by MSPs last night.

In what was one of the first debates in the Scottish Parliament since the election three weeks ago, 106 MSPs backed a motion endorsing the status quo.

Just eight MSPs voted in favour of leaving the EU, and one of those, Maurice Cory, a new Tory MSP for the West of Scotland, later admitted he’d pushed the wrong button by mistake.

Among those voting against were Oliver Mundell, the Tory MSP for Dumfriesshire, and the Labour left-winger Elaine Smith.

Three MSPs, including Corbyn-ite Labour MSP Neil Findlay, abstained.

Fiona Hyslop, who was leading for the Government, called for an end to negative campaigning and complacency.

She said: “I want to appeal to all involved in this debate. To the Leave campaign to cease their smear, speculation and their downright ludicrous arguments; and to the Remain campaign to realise that if the biggest risk is complacency at the polls their incredible Project Fear tactics will dissuade, not persuade, voters to turn out at the polls.

“The EU is not perfect but it is a remarkable achievement that in over six decades has secured co-operation over conflict, pursued a shared sense of collaboration, exchange and purposeful endeavour to work in concert – not just to advance the interests of its own members, but the world, on a global scale.”

Jackson Carlaw, in his first outing as the Scottish Conservative’s external affairs spokesman, said the apocalyptic arguments from both sides were becoming a distraction, and it should be remembered how the EU had transformed the continent.

He said: “The battlefields of Europe are now the holiday playgrounds of Europeans. That is a significant change in the step of life across the European continent and one that people too easily dismiss and now set aside, as if it was something that was always inevitable and something which is irrelevant.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who today campaigns in Glasgow with Alan Johnson, the head of Labour’s Remain campaign, criticised the SNP for arguing “that we can share sovereignty with every European nation except our nearest neighbours”.

Tory Margaret Mitchell was one of just three MSPs who spoke against the EU, calling it a “failing and outdated institution”.

She said any of the 500 million people who live in the EU had the right of free movement inside it, and warned that this had “the potential to put unsustainable pressure on schools, the health service, housing” if they chose to come to the UK.

New Green MSP Ross Greer used his maiden speech to criticise the Tory party for making the referendum all about them. “They expect us to choose between an isolated, inward-looking UK or a Europe of the corporations and the bankers," he said.

“In that debate, it’s no surprise that many progressives are tempted to vote Leave, even if I respectfully disagree with those on the Left that ultimately decide to do so.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, also making his maiden speech, warned that Brexit would leave the UK as a “tiny archipelago of islands adrift in a sea of economic uncertainty”. He added: “That is why the Liberal Democrat benches are so proudly, full-throatedly backing the Remain campaign.”

Labour's Elaine Smith said she was making the left-wing case for Brexit, and that the EU was an “essentially capitalist institution” whose “clear direction of travel” was to “open up public services to privatisation, to erode collective bargaining and to centralise power”.

In his maiden speech, Tom Arthur, the new SNP MSP for Renfrewshire South, talked of the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989, and the “shared humanity, the hope and joy” of those of East and West coming together.

“I share that experience because, in its simplicity, innocence and humanity, it recognises what is most fundamental in the debate,” Arthur said.

He continued: “It is for us, with our multi-layered identities as Scots, Brits and Europeans and as citizens of the EU, to make a choice. Will we recommit to the shared project of prosperity and social justice or will we allow ourselves to be seduced by the siren calls of isolationism and division?”

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