I'm ready to fight for Scotland in European elections

THERE’S not a lot certain in Brexit, and buckle up folks – this week is going to be less certain than most.

I am for other reasons looking back through my files to write about “how on earth did we get here?” and am struck by how little has actually changed in the past few years for those of us who have been dug in from the start.

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First published in The National, 27 February 2019

On the one hand it has been miserable seeing so many people anxious, the descent of politics and, at Westminster, the death of shame, but on the other hand I’ve never felt my role matters more and that people are relying upon me for reassurance, even just knowing that I’m still at my post and plugging away. Best of times, worst of times.

So while there’s not a lot of certainty in the world the SNP is preparing for whatever might happen, and I confirm today that I have indeed put my papers in to SNP HQ to stand in the 2019 European elections. If, of course, we are involved in them at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not much of a betting man anyway and even at that would not put money on them happening, but given the chaos at Westminster there is an outside chance.

There is of course a lot of “ifs” in this scenario, and even if the Article 50 period is extended beyond the European elections then there are still ways in which the election in Scotland and the UK could be postponed.

It is possible (though I have to say an option I would personally dread) that the existing MEPs’ mandates could be extended until an affirmative vote in another EU referendum. This would avoid the EU election being run as a proxy EU referendum, but could be subject to a legal challenge that the democratic rights of UK residents were being infringed.

Many things are unclear, but whatever happens we’ll make sure we’re ready to press Scotland’s advantage and if I pass vetting and am selected to stand I want to play my part.

Those last words are not mock-humble platitudes, the SNP is tough on selections as indeed we should be. The members are in charge, and there’s no presumption of incumbency. I hope I’ve put in a decent shift and played for the jersey since 2004 but at every selection I have gone through we go back to square one along with everyone else.

I’ll take nothing for granted. It is also a tough gig. Lots of time away from home and loved ones and near constant travel. Each time I have put myself forward for reselection I’ve had an honest conversation with myself about whether I should, and I have for this one too.

But I have decided I do want to be part of it, because we need serious experienced people at our posts. Also, I have no doubt the SNP will win (as we did in 2009 and 2014 – you would be forgiven to have missed it but there was a European election in 2014) and I can help that happen. Indeed it could be our most important European election ever.

Since the EU referendum was visited upon us by David Cameron, who then retreated back to his Great Gatsby lifestyle at the first opportunity, with a few honourable exceptions both UK Labour and the Tories have lost their marbles. UK politics has been proven to be comprehensively broken and a lot of folk in Scotland who were not with us in 2014 are looking afresh at independence in Europe and are aching to be persuaded.

Our opposition is divided amongst themselves, often lacking principle and pragmatism, the tops of both UK parties captured by the most lacklustre politicians surely to ever occupy such key roles in the UK’s politics.

Meanwhile the SNP has been principled and pragmatic. Our position is clear, Scotland’s position is clear – we want to remain within our European family. Gone are the scare stories about an independent Scotland outside the EU, indeed Brexit has proven how difficult it is to leave! We have engaged in good faith throughout this awful process, we have tried to find common cause with Westminster parties and we have maintained a consensus in Holyrood with all parties but the Tories united. But at every turn Scotland’s voice has been ignored. What even would be the party platforms of a Labour and Tory campaign? Are they pro or anti Brexit? It is safe to assume that both branch offices in Scotland will have no say in putting their manifestos together as they’ll be imposed from London – what will they be? It would be a brave politician that stood in Scotland on a pro-Brexit platform after two years of this nonsense, I’ll look forward to those hustings.

It is a beyond a scandal. Beyond justification. The European elections could, if they happen, be a chance to strike back at the warm words and platitudes masking the deep disrespect we have had to suffer in this broken UK. History books will be written about the times we are living in. So if there’s going to be an election we’re ready to do what we always do fight for the best interests of Scotland and all the people there.