by the Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP for Ross, Skye & Lochaber, President of the European Movement UK ///
Locally, nationally and at the EU level 2014 is going to be a decisive one – not just for us pro-Europeans but for Scotland, the UK and the European Union as a whole.
It is going to be the most overwhelmingly political calendar year in the experience of most political participants. I believe that we are about to live through a period quite without precedent since 1974 – the year which saw two general elections. And its impact will be even more far reaching.
Both the European elections and the Scottish independence referendum offer two pivotal platforms upon which to convey what, I believe, to be the uniquely optimistic political mindset in which we approach the twin priorities of the two great evolving political unions which shape our times.
As such, in conveying that political optimism, we must be bold to the point of fearlessness. 2014 is not one for the politically timid; as such it should be our natural territory and enable to regain that sense of self-belief and momentum vital to these challenges and to the longer haul onto the 2015 UK general election itself.
The pro-European voice, passionate yet pragmatic, needs to be heard as never before in UK politics. The European elections in May are a unique opportunity to make the case for the benefits of EU membership with confidence and conviction, offer a vision of how the EU can continue its successful journey of co-operation and economic prosperity.
As an EU member state we face increasing marginalisation if the current European erosion in our domestic politics is not halted. It is vital for millions of people that we speak up unambiguously for a European Union which continues to evolve in the interests of its citizens.
The EU faces great challenges ahead, both economic and political. European economies are still recovering from the banking crisis and the sovereign debt crisis that followed.
Economic insecurity creates political pressures, which are exploited by populist voices and put into question even fundamental rights and privileges, like the free movement of people in the EU, which has been at the core of the process of reconciliation and integration after the devastation of World War II.
The hysterical tabloid headlines were never going to materialise, but that is beyond the point. We believe in the economic, cultural and social benefits that the right to move, live and work freely in the EU brings and we have always been on the forefront of that debate, not least because many of our members are EU citizens who have made the UK their home, even our Chairman is an EU citizen that lives and works here. We practice what we preach.
The voices of populism should not pit us against our fellow Europeans. Over 2 million Brits live, study, work and retire in other EU countries and EU citizens living in the UK contribute £25 billion to our GDP. We Europeans are stronger when we stand together. Britain can achieve more in a globalised world as an integral part of the European Union, in harmony with its European partners.
A challenge of similar magnitude presents itself where the future of the United Kingdom generally is concerned. My personal view is that in winning the argument for a UK which continues to develop in a more decentralised and increasingly federal fashion we must use the Scottish referendum opportunity to paint out a more positive, bold picture of our future. I believe that the United Kingdom is another example of how living and working together makes us stronger, how standing side by side makes us taller.
As a Movement we are more than capable of meeting the political challenges in the year ahead and fulfilling our responsibility to inform the debate. For ourselves and the good of our body politic it is a political imperative that we do so.
Best wishes for a prosperous 2014.