So, in just two days we will have a vote on remaining within the EU, or not, after what has been the worst campaign I’ve ever been involved in. Everything about it has been star crossed from the start, with the dreadful murder of Jo Cox MP shocking us all. I’d add my own voice to the many expressing their condolences.
First published in The National, 21 June 2016
But political Scotland was already united: there has been a toxic energy buzzing around this campaign for months. The campaign has wound people up, but in an entirely negative way.
It has also been a sair one for those of us who believe in truth, view our job as informing people and agonise over getting facts right. Nuance or subtlety has been nowhere to be found. This has been a campaign of black-and-white, increasingly shrill opinion-as-fact. Choose between being £4,000 a year worse off or having the entire population of Turkey demanding to kip on your sofa. There’s been times I’ve thought I was enduring a poorly scripted prequel to V for Vendetta.
Change is not something to be scared of, and I’ll never endorse a campaign that suggests it is. But where I’d accuse the Remain side of at times exaggerating, the Leave side is something else entirely.
Who knows what forces they have unleashed, but they are guilty of the most deliberate, misleading, cynical and at times outright disgusting campaign I hope never to see again. They’re clever with it but make no mistake: they have lied and lied and lied and lied, and too many decent people have simply taken them at face value and too many politicians have not faced them down. So here’s a wee Project Fact for them. No, immigration has been great for Scotland and great for the UK. No, Turkey isn’t going to join the EU soon, if ever and yes, every member state does have a veto. No, it’s nothing like £350 million a week and no, you assuredly would not spend it on the NHS nor anything else progressive. No, the EU’s accounts have been signed off, every year. No, the EU is democratic, at every level. No, in not one of the infinite number of parallel universes string theory suggests exists will “taking control” and giving it to a shower of right-wing neocons and unelected Lords in a Palace by the Thames conceivably make Scotland’s cause better.
So let’s try to forget this campaign and focus on the big picture, on Scotland’s and the UK’s interests. Say it loud, being part of the EU has been great for us. We need to remain for five big reasons: Peace, Prosperity, Rights, People and Consequences.
Peace. The EU is the world’s best war-avoidance mechanism ever invented. Not my words, John Hume the great Irish peacemaker. Every village in Scotland has a war memorial, the EU is Never Again in action.
Prosperity. Yes the EU costs, about £2.20, per person per week, that’s a lot of money. For every pound we put in we get ten back in economic activity, by any measure a pretty good return.
Rights. As citizens we have human rights against our own government, meaning an external scrutiny of how it behaves. We have rights as workers, all underpinned by the EU. These aren’t red tape holding our economy back, they’re vital protections. Leavers want them scrapped.
People. We have a right to live, work, study or retire across the European continent, and 2.2 million UK nationals have. 2.6 million EU nationals have come to the UK, paying us the supreme compliment of enriching our society and economy, contributing, net, £55 per second to the UK Exchequer. Net, 400,000 people. How dare, just, how dare anyone claim anywhere in these islands is swamped by EU migration. We need more people not fewer, and a better understanding of immigration so the politics of fear don’t take root and the impacts of austerity are blamed (by the people who made austerity happen) entirely wrongly, on immigrants.
And, if that’s not persuaded you, Consequences. I can well see why some people want their country back and want to vote leave to take control. The anger is real, I share it. I’m angry too many people in our country are struggling to make ends meet; I’m angry my country hasn’t jailed bankers and we’re still paying for their greed and incompetence; I’m angry my country tolerates, nay, encourages, industrial scale tax avoidance; I’m angry my country still sells guns and tanks and bombs to some of the most odious regimes in the world, and bases its own nuclear ones, the most obscene of all, in what actually is my country. I’m angry alright, but Brussels didn’t make these choices, Westminster did. The people who have made these choices are precisely the people who we would vote Leave and give control to. They want control alright, over us.
So Thursday matters. The polls are close, Scotland could make the difference. Please be a voter and make Scotland’s voice heard.