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Better reflections in 2014

Alyn looks at Scotland's lack of adequate representation in the EU 


Published by Independence Magazine, July/August 2012

Our near neighbours are only just waking up to just how different we actually are, and many are genuinely concerned about seeing the union broken up.

If they’re finally realising we’re not all the same, then that can only be a good thing. But we do need to be sensitive to a genuine feeling of rejection – sadness, even.

As we move towards the 2014 referendum, it’s critical that we focus on the reality, not the emotional rhetoric.

That means disowning the violent, beery, blokey language we so often find in the mainstream media. Words and phrases such as  'splitting', 'separation' 'ripping apart', even 'going off' or 'going our own way' are as ludicrous as they are inaccurate.

I've never wanted to divorce, rip up or destroy anything.  I want to join, take responsibility, grow and nurture, to see my country speak for itself. Independence is a prerequisite to that.

Think about our recent history.  I believe Scotland is on an unstoppable journey. The re-convening of our national parliament 13 years ago created a new cadre of politicians and a new style of politics.

This process can only grow and accelerate. Holyrood is giving voice to a different world view and a different polity.  What started with the smoking ban - introduced a year before our friends down south took similar steps - has continued through bold legislation such as a freeze on council tax, rejection of tuition fees and abolition of prescription charges.

This, I confidently predict, will continue with equal marriage, tough climate change targets and other progressive policies.

The laws we enact at Holyrood help forge the kind of distinctively Scottish society we wish to create. We have chosen to abolish prescription charges because a tax triggered by being ill offends our values.

We have opted not to charge tuition fees because an educated population is a progressive and sustainable one.  Education isn’t a private luxury to be bought like a loft extension – it’s a public good we all benefit from.

So making our own decisions already happens and few south of the border have noticed, much less felt any anxiety over it.

So why the emotionally charged debate as people come to realise how advanced our journey actually is? Why all the blokey language about breaking things when surely taking responsibility for our country's future is the gentlest of ambitions?

Those who adopt this tone often use deliberately inflammatory language to bolster their own self-interest. But doing this masks the arguments rather than engaging with them.

It cannot escape anyone's notice that most of the measures I’ve mentioned involve spending more money. That’s the first major flaw of the status quo.  A parliament that only spends money can only have half a discussion.

For a proper national politics we must have full control over the income as well as the expenditure side of the balance sheet.  Only then will we have a proper conversation about nurturing growth in our economy, progressive taxation, or developing a benefits system that rewards work and protects the vulnerable.

There’s another problem. The world is becoming closer, and international organisations such as the WTO, the UN, NATO or the EU are playing more and more of a role.

Globalisation means it is all the more important to speak for yourself and to be represented by a government you trust. But voting records show that Scots display minimal support for the present UK government.

The EU in particular throws into sharp relief the fault lines across the status quo. It is not about foreign affairs or diplomacy.  It is domestic policy across a bigger canvass.

MEPs and government ministers are dealing with things like weights and measures, the common ambition of beating climate change or fighting organised crime in our interconnected world.

Holyrood is responsible for implementing EU rules but is only partly represented in their formulation.  We MEPs do what we can, but in the Council of Ministers we are represented by a UK apparatus that barely considers our interests. This apparatus sees us as having another parliament – and it’s not one it’s interested in.

Within the EU, Scotland's representation does not yet adequately fit our distinctive agenda.  We see this on a weekly basis be it with energy policy, agriculture, justice and home affairs or in many other areas.

Our increasingly distinctive Scottish political landscape is not being reflected within the EU, and it is up to us to take responsibility to put that right.

Soon, in 2014, we will have the chance to make that happen. Let’s make sure we seize it.