SNP MEP Defends Tory Right To Voluntary Redundancy in Europe

16 March 2009
Scottish National Party Member of the European Parliament Mr Alyn Smith has today (Monday) expressed his amusement over the voluntary redundancy of the UK Tories thanks to their decision to leave their current political group after the June European election, but defended their right to be as irrelevant as they choose.

His comments were critical of European Commission President Barroso's intervention regretting that the UK Conservatives will leave the European People's Party, with Smith stating categorically that it is the right of the UK Tories to be as irrelevant as they choose and President Barroso should maintain a diplomatic silence.

The European Parliament, with so many different political parties represented, forms instead into loose "groups" which co-operate with each other, though there is no formal whip as such. Membership of a group entitles the MEPs to committee places, speaking time in debates, group support and allowances as well as a say in how the Parliament does business. The Conservatives are currently part of the largest group, the "European Peoples' Party - European Democrats" which is comprised of centre-right parties. One of David Cameron's few campaign promises in the UK Conservative leadership election was to pull the Tory Group out of the EPP-ED and set up a new group, a policy subsequently shown to be tricky given nobody wants the Tories to sit with them and, having ruled out their natural political home, the wilderness beckons alongside individuals described by Scottish Tory MEP Struan Stevenson as "fascists and nutters".

The SNP by contrast sits with the European Green Parties in the Green-European Free Alliance group, co-operating positively on a socially progressive, ecological agenda but agreeing to disagree on certain issues of importance to Scotland.

Smith said:

"The Tories have applied for voluntary redundancy before the election has started. But as Voltaire might have said: "I disagree with your wish to be as irrelevant as the fascists and nutters you will sit alongside, but I'll defend to the death your right to redundancy".

"Yet again, they prove they just don't "get" the EU, and this is all the stranger given that every major transfer of power from the UK to the EU, right back to joining the EEC in 1973, took place under the Tories in London. Even the weekend's nonsense story about alleged EU edicts on gender neutral language demonstrate the Tories would rather view the EU, responsible for vast chunks of Scottish law, as a great big 'Allo 'Allo sketch.

"Scottish voters deserve better, and to be fair, a number of the Tory MEPs are very unhappy at the decision to leave the EPP, because they want to do a job of work and want the tools to do it. I even wonder the extent to which it is binding on the Scottish Conservatives given they are, at least on some level, a different party to the UK. The fact is, if you are not in a group you are not at the races, and David Cameron's decision to condemn the Tories to sit with 'fascists and nutters' on the loony benches should be held up for the people of Scotland to see clearly. The Tories are not serious about representing their electors, and I would gently urge anyone thinking of voting Tory to look again at a party that takes representing them seriously.

"All the groups are broad churches, they have to be. The SNP has worked for years with the European Greens on a constructive and friendly basis, and achieved much for the people of Scotland and, indeed, for the EU as a whole, pushing a progressive, social democratic, ecological agenda. Often different Green Parties have different views on different issues, for example the Swedish Greens may well have a different view to the French Greens, and like them where we disagree we disagree, and we all get on fine and focus instead on what unites us.

"However, at the end of the day the Tories have the right to sit where they choose, however silly, and it is ill-fitting for Commission President Barroso to comment on a matter that has, in the truest sense of the words, nothing to do with him. This is the latest in a pretty unfortunate series of interventions from him on matters that he has no power over and no say in."