Observer status is redundant. Scotland’s future is at the heart of Europe.

Posted by European Movement on 12/01/14

Toni Giugliano, SNP candidate in the 2014 EP elections///

This year, 2014, will be momentous for Scotland. It will be not only about Scotland’s future in the UK, but also about Scotland’s place in the world.

It’ll be a choice between a UK increasingly marginalised at the European fringes and an independent Scotland working constructively with her neighbours.

The rise of UKIP south of the border is testimony to the polarisation of sentiments on Europe between Scotland and the rest of the UK. But equally it highlights the contrast between our political landscapes and our social and political values. The evidence of this divergence is the 2009 European elections where UKIP won a mere 5.2% of the Scottish vote. Scotland would have needed 15 seats for one UKIP MEP to have been elected. It is likely that this trend will continue in May’s election.

But there’s more to UKIP than Europe: policies on social justice, immigration, equality, the environment, the NHS and taxation are at odds with Scotland’s priorities. Is it viable for Scotland to be governed by Tories – rejected by the people of Scotland – shifting to the right as they run scared of Farage banging on the door of No 10? A party that would favour the abolition of Members of the Scottish Parliament – the very parliament that continues to shield us from regressive Westminster policies?

Of course, it’s not just UKIP. Senior Tory figures such as Nigel Lawson and Government Ministers like Michael Gove coming out as supporters of EU withdrawal should be a warning to all pro-Europeans. Britain’s relationship with Europe has never been easy; but this time it’s serious.

The question is – where are the Westminster heavyweights defending EU membership? Who is sticking up for Europe in government and in the shadow Cabinet? Why do we have a Labour party questioning the 2004 enlargement and stating that they ‘got it wrong’ on free movement to Britain? The debate on Bulgarians and Romanians illustrates that the big three parties are dancing to a UKIP tune. Britain’s future in Europe is far from certain. Indeed the in-out Europe referendum is a serious threat to our EU membership.

If the overwhelming population of the UK chooses to leave the EU, Scotland will be dragged along with it. That is not a risk I’m willing to take.

One of the big choices in the independence referendum is between UK isolation and Scottish participation in Europe. Over the past 40 years the UK has been on the edges, never shaping the European debate, but simply reacting to it, and time and time again UK ministers have made the wrong decisions for Scotland.

We have a Prime Minister threatening to take us out of the social chapter – the only legislation our workforce have to guarantee rights in the workplace. Would our First Minister ever argue the same? We have a UK Chancellor taking Brussels to court for introducing a cap on bankers’ bonuses. Would John Swinney ever do the same? A Home Secretary considering withdrawal from the European Arrest warrant. Would Kenny MacAskill ever consider doing the same? A Rural Affairs Secretary calling for a reduction to the agriculture budget when Scotland already gets the worst farming deal in Europe. Would Richard Lochhead have argued the same? A work and pensions secretary accusing EU nationals of benefit tourism when EU nationals contribute more to the UK economy than they get back in welfare and health services. Which Scottish government, of whatever composition, would ever argue the same?

Last year the UK, the Irish Republic and Denmark celebrated 40 years of EU membership. Ireland marked it with a successful EU presidency: a US-EU trade deal and the reform of both the CFP and CAP. The UK marked it with a Prime Minister announcing a referendum on Europe.

Ireland and then Lithuania, two small nations, as presidents of the Council set the agenda for 500 million Europeans. Countries smaller than Scotland but with more MEPs, their own Commissioner, their own seat at the top tables of Brussels and the power to influence the EU’s policy direction. Scotland should be doing the same, advancing policy, leading in areas where we have expertise such as energy, climate-change legislation, world-leading research and fisheries. Instead, we’re forced to rely on Westminster to represent us – a Westminster system which throws its toys out the pram and fails to protect our distinct interests in Europe.

Independence will give Scotland a unique opportunity to join the family of nations, embark on a partnership of equals with the UK and help shape and mould the Europe of tomorrow. As two independent Member States, Scotland and the UK will be able to work together, and combined, will have a stronger voice and representation to pursue common goals.

With our own dynamic on European engagement we’ll be in a position to protect our distinct national interest while making a contribution to the direction of our continent. I’ll be voting Yes in September to guarantee Scotland’s long term future in Europe. This time let’s shape it – let’s be at the heart of it.

Toni Giugliano is an SNP candidate in the 2014 European Parliament elections and the Head of Interest Groups at Yes Scotland. He was President of the Young European Movement UK in 2005-06.

 

5 Responses to Observer status is redundant. Scotland’s future is at the heart of Europe. »»

  1. Comment by eusebio manuel vestias pecurto | 2014/01/13 at 13:15:44

    Eu defendo a autodeterminação da Escócia porque será uma oportunidade para todos os escoceses

  2. Comment by Elio PENNISI | 2014/01/13 at 14:16:48

    “Over the past 40 years the UK has been on the edges, never shaping the European debate, but simply reacting to it,…”
    This is unquestionable truth and we must ask ourselves if, in 40 years, a single minister has ever raised a voice to say ….the UK, strong with its political experience, is rooted in Europe and wants to be at the helm of a nascent European Union.

  3. Comment by Richard | 2014/01/15 at 11:52:58

    This article could be easily summed up: Scottish nationalism is good, but UK (and for UK, read “English”) nationalism is bad.

    The author portrays a Scotland oppressed by “Westminster”, an alien Parliament filled with foreigners the Scots didn’t vote for. That “Westminster” ministers do not represent the unique national interests of Scotland and make the wrong decisions on it’s behalf. We are presented with a hypothetical list of things that “Westminster” may or may not propose, which equally hypothetical ministers of an independent Scotland might, or might not oppose. That Scotland must be free of “Westminster”, to have it’s own voice “at the top table” because it is apparently so unique and different from the rest of it’s shared island that it’s distinct needs cannot be represented as a collective of that shared island.

    But, of course, these are exactly the same arguments put forward by UKIP. Except they talk about “Brussels”. A Parliament that dominates the UK, filled with foreigners the British did not elect, in which they are a minority. That the UK must be free to regain it’s “own voice at the top table” in, for example, the WTO, rather than being represented by the EU. That the UK is so different from the rest of the Continent it can only serve it’s interests alone. That, “free of them”, all will be well.

    The European Movement, of course, describes this as madness: we must remain in the EU so that we negotiate with it’s combined strength. That to suggest the Uk is so different from the rest of the Continent we all share is nothing but xenophobia. That people vote for UKIP only because of ancient grudges against the French and Germans.

    Whereas no one would vote for the Scottish independence based on ancient grudges against the English or to get exclusive ownership of North Sea oil?

    Is it not more logical to argue that Scotland, as part of the UK, gains exactly the same advantage that the UK gains from being part of the EU? How can one argue so strongly for one Union, but against another which operates on very similar principles and exists for much the same reasons?

    Certainly, the Nationalists are nominally “Pro-European” – whether that is unrequited love of Europe (which seems not to be shared by the Scottish electorate) or a realisation that leaving the UK makes the EU essential to keep things like free trade with it’s most important economic partner is unclear. It certainly does not extend to adoption of the euro – indeed, there seems to be a great effort to ensure Scotland remains in the pound – even a threat to renege on debt should the English feel they do not wish to accede to Scottish demands to turn sterling into a copy of the dysfunctional eurozone (what was that about prams and toys again?)

  4. Comment by eltet | 2014/01/16 at 16:38:51

    Replace UK=Spain and Scotland=Catalonia and a majority of catalan people agree with this article

  5. Comment by Richard | 2014/01/26 at 22:13:53

    But it’s a fundamental contradiction – Scots and Catalans complain about their position within the UK and Spain, but on the other hand (apparently) support adopting the same position within the EU.

    For example, the author says that Scotland can’t be represented by the UK within the EU but instead has to “have it’s own voice at the top table”

    Yet he is also a member of the European Movement which says that the UK gains from having the EU represent it (and all other EU states) in organisations such as the WTO. Because the EU is a larger entity and speaks with the strength of numbers – even though that combined voice may not necessarily be saying what one or more individual member states would say by themselves.

    In essence, it is an exchange – a loss of individuality for a gain in bargaining strength.

    I have yet to see anyone present a logical argument why membership on one union (such as the Uk or Spain) is so bad but membership of the EU is so good.

    One might say that from a UKIP point of view, “Observer Status” for the UK is no longer satisfactory within the WTO, therefore, the Uk should leave the EU to have “it’s own voice at the top table”

    An independent Scotland in the Eu would still have all the things the author complains about – as in the UK, it will be in a Union with much larger partners and is thus likely to find itself in a minority…for example, Scots may not return MEP’s who are in the party of majority inside the European Parliament. It may , and probably will, be, outvoted on many occasions. The EU in bodies such as the WTO may not represent particular Scottish national interests if they are at odds with those of the whole Union. The Commission may make decisions that impact Scotland that a Scottish minister would not make.

    It is therefore illogical to argue so strongly for leaving the UK but equally strongly for EU membership. Both Unions operate in a similar way and were created for similar reasons.


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