The Wee BLEU Book - coming soon!

This month’s iScot piece is coming to you from a quiet Scotrail service winding its way back to Edinburgh. To my left, a delegate dozes against the window, his arms folded over a clutch of buttercup yellow badges. Across the table, a teenage girl is opening Snapchat after Snapchat of speeches, cheers, laughter, someone asking for a loan of a Yousaf Tae Vote For Humza t-shirt, and the unmistakable sound of Angels sung by Mhairi Black, an MP just a handful of years older than she is.

Published in iScot April 2016

Since the IndyRef, our ‘old guard’ has been joined by a huge crowd of new folk from across the age spectrum, bright and keen and hungry for information. I knew Scotland’s political scene had changed forever when I sat down in a pub and heard two guys at the bar debating different forms of currency union with the barmaid. In Scotland, we don’t leave the politics to someone else. We get in there. I’m delighted that so many iScot readers got in touch with me after last month’s column where I urged you to get in touch with me if you heard something about the EU and weren’t sure if it was true, or if you just had questions, and I’d like you to know that it remains an open invitation. 

Over the past few months, I’ve seen an upsurge in cross-party (and non-party!) emails from constituents who want to know more about the EU ahead of the referendum. That’s why I set up a fringe event at the conference, titled ‘EU Referendum: your other vote this year” with John Edward from the Scotland Stronger in Europe campaign. 

I make no bones about the fact I believe Scotland benefits greatly from our EU membership, and we deserve better than having that used as collateral in an inter-party spat between the Conservatives. But, as I said earlier, it’s not enough to simply tell the people of Scotland what’s best for them. A politician worth his salt needs to be able to stand up and answer questions, engage in healthy debate, and produce solid facts to back up his stance before people will listen here.

So, yes, the rumours are true. There will be a ‘wee blEU book’ ahead of the referendum. Delegates and party members who managed to get a seat at the front of the room would have seen the draft version on my desk in all its glory – facts and stats and infographics on all things EU, from an insider’s guide to how it works, to sections on exactly how (and by how much) Scotland benefits from our membership. This will sit alongside Ian Hudghton and I’s dedicated ‘Scotland in Europe’ website, complete with FAQs for those of you who want the key facts right away.  

To clarify, this is open to everyone. We’ll have the website, print-at-home pdfs, and hard copies we’ll be distributing at events around the country. I know a lot of iScot readers aren’t SNP members – well, this is for you too! All you have to do is email alyn.smith@europarl.europa.eu and we’ll send you a link when it’s ready. Even if you’ve already made up your mind one way or another, give it a chance. We have a proud tradition of political engagement in Scotland, so let’s continue that in 2016. 

In the meantime, it’s time for another edition of Alyn’s Favourite Euromyths! 

MYTH: EU wants to ban your Sunday roast!
FACT: Not at all. This Euromyth was based on fears that our proud British ovens would take longer to heat up, thanks to new EU energy efficiency rules under the Eco-Design Directive. However, according to the European Commission itself, “ovens will still heat to the same temperatures just as fast but less energy and money will be wasted.” The new rules have improved consumer information on how much household appliances cost to run, with minimum energy efficiency standards for gas and electric domestic ovens and cookers. While the tabloids screamed about a soggy bottom epidemic, they forgot to mention that input from experts on oven technology were crucial in designing the new measures, so performance will, if anything, improve while at the same time saving you money. 

MYTH: Queen has to get her own tea!
FACT: The Working Time Directive requires EU countries to limit weekly working hours to 48 hours per week on average, but the UK allows people to opt-out and work longer hours. I’m sure her Majesty is relieved to know that the EU will not prevent palace servants from doing the tea run.   

MYTH: Universal zoo symbol to be an elephant! Even if the zoos don’t have an elephant!
FACT: The European Commission doesn’t even have the powers to do this, so that’s a big fat No from Nelly and me.