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A referendum we can win on facts

Well, we haven’t much time to catch our breath after the Scottish Parliament elections before we have to rush headlong into the EU referendum, but we’re almost there! 


As you’ll know, I’ve been travelling around Scotland and taking full advantage of the opportunity to talk about Scotland’s relationship with the EU and what your MEPs do, in addition to debunking some of the most popular myths coming up on the doorsteps. With that in mind, I’m pleased to release a slightly abridged edition of The Wee BLEU Book, exclusively for iScot magazine. If you know someone who missed out, the downloadable pdf and online version are still available at

First published in iScot June 2016

Last month, I talked about how the EU rose from the ashes of a devastating war where young boys and family men alike were sent off to fight and die because elite politics got it wrong. Fast-forward a few decades and we see the spectre of Hitler dangled like a marionette to whip up isolationist sentiment by the anti-EU side. 

This is a referendum we can win with facts but it’s not going to be easy when so many tall tales go unchallenged. Nobody’s saying the EU is perfect – least of all me – but we gain a lot from being a part of it, and we can’t let the Conservatives risk all that for the sake of their inner-party squabble. 

To address this ‘super state’ nonsense briefly though, while various historical figures have expressed individual desires to create a federal European state, central to explaining the EU is understanding that it is not - in structure or intent - a federal country. At its heart is a collection of sovereign member states that came together to form a common market.

The EU is democratic and accountable at every level. It is made up of 28 democratically elected Member State Governments, acting jointly with the directly democratically elected MEPs in the European Parliament. If there is not agreement, the law doesn't happen.  

The MEPs and Member State Governments oversee the work of the European Commission, and appoint the Commissioners.  The Commission is the EU's Civil Service, and the Scottish Civil Service is not elected either.

Now to the big question – one I’ve been hearing a lot over the past few weeks. Why should we strive to become independent of the UK, but vote to remain in the EU? 

The answer is that the EU is about pooling our sovereignty, not pulling it to Westminster. Really, the EU is more like the UN than the UK. 

Many of the problems we, in Scotland, face are not due to the EU’s lack of democracy, but instead due to UK priorities, often failing to work constructively with our EU partners. Poor outcomes are due to who speaks for Scotland in the EU. The SNP is an internationalist party. We want independence for Scotland not to withdraw from the world and shun our neighbours, but to enable us to interact with them as equals.

Being part of the EU allows Scotland, in the words of John Hume, the great Irish peace builder, to play a part in “the best war avoidance mechanism ever invented”. It also allows us to generate jobs through trade with our closest neighbours and change the lives of all Scots for the better. This referendum will be about far more than money, no matter how clear the economic case is. 

This is about empowering and enriching the Scottish nation by remaining a participant in one of the world’s largest and most progressive economic and social communities. This will come down to a choice about what kind of Scotland we want: open, co-operative and successful or narrow and insular.

I know the kind of Scotland I want. Let’s build it together.