European elections: Voting Green could open door for Nigel Farage’s candidate

I’M honoured to have been approved by the SNP NEC as a candidate in the European election, and now it is over to delegates at our Spring Conference to rank us one to six to finalise our list. We’ve a great slate, and this European election is our most important ever, as well as probably the strangest! I’ll lead it from the front if you’ll back me. We have a chance to shine by sending a strong team of MEPs back to Brussels to defend Scotland’s place in Europe and to build the case for independence in Europe.

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First published in The National, 23 April 2019

Brexit has jolted a lot of people previously unconvinced by independence in their attitudes to where our best future lies. Similarly, across the EU many people who were cold to us in 2014 are open to us now.

I have played my part in that conversion, working at home and abroad since my election in 2004 to build a team and to defend and promote independence in Europe. The SNP has a golden opportunity to strike a blow for freedom.

Of course, not everyone who reads The National votes SNP, and it is right that each and every party wants to contest the election.

I don’t ever advocate tactical voting – I’ve voted SNP when I knew it was a lost vote, and I would not expect anyone else to vote against their principles.

So if people want to vote Green, vote Green – there’s plenty of good reasons why the Greens deserve a vote. But I have to say, if I was designing the Green campaign, I assuredly would not have made it centre around getting rid of the obnoxious former Ukip member who currently pretends to represent Scotland in the European Parliament. Aside from making their campaign about something other than themselves, it is not true on the numbers as they stand.

Under the closed list system in operation at the European election, the fact is the Greens are well off from winning the sixth seat, and are more likely to open the door for Ukip or the Brexit Party, as indeed happened in the last election in 2014.

As I say, people should vote with their consciences, but those are the stats as they stand.

Then there are the Tories and Labour parties, as split on Europe as they are on everything else. The Tories have selected Baroness Nosheena Mobarik, their current MEP appointed from the House of Lords when the last Tory MEP, Ian Duncan, missed out on winning the Perthshire seat in the House of Commons but was parachuted into the House of Lords anyway. I would not fancy defending the Tory record on Brexit to a Scottish audience.

The Tories are now officially pro-Brexit, but are losing members and MPs hand over fist to the left and right because they are all over the place. May’s Brexit is a disaster for Scotland and everyone knows it, only in some parallel universe are the Tories doing well for Scotland.

Labour have selected David Martin, Scotland’s and the UK’s longest-serving MEP. David has been a great MEP for Scotland and has signed up to play for Team Scotland on Brexit, working hand-in-glove with the Scottish Government, and deserves a lot of credit for that.

I’m curious to see the Labour manifesto, though. This is the Brexit election, and where David has a clear view on Brexit that I quite agree with, the Labour official policy on Brexit is all over the place. They stood in the snap UK election on a pro-Brexit ticket, and there seems even likelihood they’ll do the same now. Again, entirely against the clear wishes of a clear majority of Scots. If they do declare themselves in favour of a second EU referendum, even one confirming any deal they might cook up at Westminster, then they might be in with a chance, but if they don’t then it will be the longest suicide note in history and we’d have to ask what on earth Labour are for.

The Liberals are standing. I think that’s enough about the Liberals.

Then we have the more odious end of the spectrum, Ukip and the Brexit Party. They have selected a rum bunch of folk, and I dearly hope they are firmly rejected when the vote comes. As I understand it, at the moment, it is not clear that the new Farage party will endorse David Coburn as their candidate, as his antics are too much even for them, but we’ll see.

Over the past five years he has certainly been nothing but a boorish embarrassment, turning up to bark like a demented walrus at anyone passing, but not to do any actual work or engage in the actual discussion. It is sad to see, actually – just a clown, a parasite.

I’d say I hope they do select him as it would be great for us, but actually no, he is precisely the sort of person who should just not be in public life. There are no redeeming features there at all.

It remains to be seen if this other strange beast, Change UK, will stand in Scotland. I believe they are thinking about it, but I’ll confess I don’t see a lot of bandwidth for them unless they’re looking for soft pro-EU Tory votes. We’ll see.

So bring it on. My party is best placed to win, and win big, for progressive politics and for independence in Europe. And however this election goes, I am quite sure it will change the weather on whether Brexit happens at all.

If Leave parties win, then I think that encourages Corbyn to May’s deal; if Remain parties win, then I think that tends to another EU referendum now that we know what Brexit actually is – chaos. So it is going to be a strange one, but it really is all to play for.