SNP MEP Addresses Plaid Cymru Conference

15 September 2007
SNP Member of the European Parliament Mr Alyn Smith is today (Saturday) to address the Plaid Cymru annual conference in Llandudno, North Wales.

Speaking from Llandudno Mr Smith said:

“I’m looking forward to the speech, it is great craic to be back in Wales it is like visiting family. With the Welsh spelling of my name perhaps it is!

“There are fascinating things happening in Welsh politics, and with Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Europe as well, it is a fascinating time to be a nationalist politician. It is clear that independence is in the air.

“I’m proud to be the first SNP fraternal delegate representing the party of government in Scotland speaking to the party of government in Wales.”

Note to Editors

Mr Smith’s speech is printed below.

Our countries, our peoples, go back a long way. And in the long friendship of our parties, we have exchanged many greetings over the years, but I feel particularly honoured and pretty awed to be able to start my speech to you with:I bring you, the government of Wales, greetings, and congratulations, from the government of Scotland.

2007 will go down in the histories of both our countries as the year things changed. The year independence for both our countries came closer.

For us Scots, the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Union with Englandand Wales, a union created by force in Wales, and by bribery, threats,deceit, and then force in Scotland.

A Union which today sees your country and mine junior partners in an artificial political construct that neither works for our people nor serves them well.

A British Union, unjust then and discredited now.A British Union whose time has past.The 300th anniversary, in Scotland, of that Union. But for all of us, the 50th anniversary of the founding in Rome of a different, more successful Union amongst the peoples of Europe.

A European Union born not out of a quest for dominance of an island, but out of the ashes of war, of human suffering on a scale unimaginable then and unthinkable now. A European Union born of hope, and a determination for a better future. Built on never ending dialogue, co-operation, mutual respect and the rule of law.

A European Union which recognises, respects, celebrates cultural diversity, where the British Union until pretty recently encouraged the people of these islands to pretend we are all the same. Ignoring belittling, sometimes forcibly eradicating our different traditions,language, dress, history and culture.

But that was then, and as one Union grows in importance, in legitimacy, in familiarity, so the shortcomings and irrelevance of the other become increasingly apparent.I’m privileged to work alongside your Vice President Jill Evans, along with Haf and Sara in her team in the European Parliament. You may haveheard of it?! Well, given the British media you never know!Its a big room in Brussels where 785 people from the Algarve to the Arctic Circle, from Stornoway to Cyprus come to sit alongside each other and talk, debate, agree, disagree, and decide on how best to serve the peoples of Europe and how to bring down barriers between us.

And in 50 years look what the European Union has achieved. Some of you may remember what a visa stamp is in a passport. Your children won’t. A friend of mine is going to America, and was being told what to do to get a visa and I thought how, slightly backward, how untrusting, how hostile. Any EU citizen can go travel, work, study, set up a business, retire, live, in any other part of the EU because we like, respect and trust each other.

The EU has allowed the creation of an admittedly dry, technical, rulesbased framework which has allowed our peoples to get closer and closer, at their own pace. Selling whisky in 75cl bottles across the EU does not make us any less Scottish, and it makes trade easier.And that drawing closer is breaking down the old psychology, the old attitudes. The old badges, the totems of nationhood count for less and less. Whose head was on the banknotes in your pocket used to be important in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Slovenia and the rest. Now they use euros every day without a second thought, they know that how much the paper is worth is what matters.

Whose head is on your banknotes doesn’t matter a jot to your identity. Does using the euro make the French any less French? Zut alors! Our own people, don’t share the currency but are seeing it when they visit. Seeing the mundane normality of it all, and more and more realizing that you might as well keep your euros from France rather than change them back because you’re away for a long weekend to Dublin in a few months.

Airlines. National flag carriers are going bust one by one. Easyjet andRyanair would no more put a flag on their tails than they would think about telling you the actual cost of a flight in their adverts! And lower cost airlines would be impossible without the single market.

But the EU is changing too. The harrumphing you might hear about a superstate is nonsense, outdated, ignorant and just plain wrong. The Poles the Czechs, the Latvians and all the rest have not swapped Moscow for Brussels. They have not just regained their independence to sign it over. The Estonians had Soviet tanks on their streets 20 years ago, why would they leave one superstate to join another?

Our parties recognised years ago that we live in an interdependent Europe and an interconnected world.Independence in modern Europe is different to what it was when our nations lost ours.

In English law, sovereignty rests with the monarch in Parliament, howquaint. In Scots law the people are sovereign. And in the modern Europe, in today’s world it makes perfect sense to share that sovereignty where it makes sense to achieve more in concert than we could apart.And that is the genius of the EU, and that is why the world’s newest independent country Montenegro, is so keen to join as well.

The Montenegrins voted yes in their referendum, and 40 days later they were admitted to the United Nations. The first country to recognise their sovereignty? Iceland.

So the European Union’s changing. From Iceland to Montenegro, Llandudno to Livingston the winds of change are blowing.But I tell you about the European Union, to make my point about our future.

Fundamentally, never forget, to be part of something bigger comes the absolute necessity to be able to be yourself.

Right now, Wales and Scotland cannot be themselves. We’re represented by London.We’re represented by London in the EU, and we lose out because of it.

We’re led by London internationally, and find ourselves part of a state involved in an illegal war for oil in Iraq which offends our values aswell as common decency!

An illegal war which has destabilised the region I grew up in, has put our troops in harm’s way, has plunged that country into the abyss and an independent Scotland and Wales would never have been part of it.

We find ourselves part of a state apparently blind to the breathtaking,grubby handed hypocrisy of criticising other people’s Weapons of Mass Destruction while squandering billions upon billions on shiny new ones for itself. And they’re all based in my country!And on both these issues, in the cradle of British democracy the Imperial Palace by the Thames, the only real, the only principled, the only significant opposition came from our two parties acting as one and I pay tribute to your MPs and thank you.

The fact is, the Westminster system by its very nature guarantees a style of politics that fundamentally offends Scots and Welsh values. I don’t think it serves England overly well either, but that’s for the English to sort out. It’s fascinating how London the City under Ken Livingstone is actually moving away from Westminster in how it does business.

Westminster is losing power, credibility, and its grip. Your man Adam Price said that there might not be a UK to be part of in 20 years time. I think it might be sooner still.Of course, after independence the countries of the British Isles will all still be close, neighbours, friends, colleagues. And I can foresee plenty occasions where the English, Welsh, Irish and Scots opinions on matters will be the same. Just last week Jill and I, with English, Irish and Northern Irish MEPs took forward a joint initiative against Brazilian beef.

But we came together as Europeans, as equals, and our countries must too.

The status quo locks us into a junior partner/branch office role which demeans our history, disappoints our people and stunts their futures.And we can do better. Our people, in Scotland and Wales, have already started down a different path. In our Parliament and your Senedd,proportional, coalition, minority governments! How European, how Nordic specifically.

We have a different set of values, the Common Weal of Scotland, I can’t say it in Welsh. Those values fit into a social democratic Nordic Europe.We have a long way to go. The majority of our peoples are not yet persuaded, but they are open to persuasion and they have trusted us with power.

Too many of our people are struggling to get by. Too many of our people are so defeated in their lives they don’t see politics or independence as part of the answer.

It’s our job to bring them hope.Because there is nothing wrong with Scotland that will not be put right by what is right with Scotland. And I say as a friend of your country and your party that:…there is nothing wrong with Wales that will not be put right by what is right with Wales … and its Plaid Cymru government.

So while the European Union is bringing the peoples of Europe closer,where the winds of change are blowing across the continent and ourcountries, never forget that you need to be able to talk for yourself to take part in it.

Our Scots author Alasdair Gray coined the phrase, “to work like you are in the first days of a better nation”.I believe we are in the first days of a better Wales, a better Scotland, but our futures will be better still and I wish you every success in the world.

Thank you