I WAS struck by Iain Black’s piece earlier this week (Overwhelmed but in need of more facts ... this is how voters are thinking about independence) and his analysis of how Scotland’s voters are thinking. It certainly rings true to me.
First published in The National, 26 October 2017.
On European stuff especially, there has been a blizzard of half truths, industrial-scale misinformation and no small amount of outright lies put out there, and I have decided to do something about it.
At SNP conference last week I gently launched Scotland in Europe, a book that I and my team have put together to try to cut through the blizzard of chaff with some actual facts, some chiels that winna ding, on how Scotland’s best interests are emphatically best served by remaining within the European Union. It is 70-odd pages of hopefully user friendly facts, all verifiable in the document itself, that will, I hope, help to win the argument about what is Scotland’s best future.
We will be kicking it on in the coming weeks, and I hope that it informs the discussion. We do not know what is in Scotland’s future but let’s remember the North Star: independence in Europe changed the independence proposition, for the better, and still underpins it.
We want to be independent not to be separate or apart, but to join the fora of the world, as ourselves, making our own decisions at home and working with our friends towards greater common endeavours.
As Brexit staggers on I am more and more certain that even those who are less keen on EU membership will admit that trusting the Tories to deliver for us is no serious strategy to achieve independence. There has been too much kite-flying on other options and, of course, we need to keep all options on the table and under consideration, but we need to remember the big picture, unite around SNP policy, and lead the debate by explaining it – because there is an argument that needs to be won about EU membership. Pro-EU sentiment has risen in Scotland since the EU referendum when we emphatically voted to remain, but I would admit that recent heartache in Catalonia has been a difficult one for us to watch.
The response of the international community was chilly, and the EU followed that lead where I think it could have been braver. But it wasn’t, and I think that is a poor show. Far from the superstate some would have you believe exists, the EU has very limited ways to intervene in a dispute over the constitutional order of a member state. It should have been more vocal, and there will be consequences, but they’ll be a long time coming. I’ve raised Catalonia’s case repeatedly in the European Parliament – not by megaphone but by quiet – and have been pleased to see colleagues, especially Christina McKelvie MSP in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, likewise appealing to the international community to put some oomph behind the fine words about shared values and democracy.
So it has been a tough few weeks to be pro-European but that remains my conclusion. I will not be silenced by the industrial-scale misinformation from the still slippery Leave campaign. Don’t be fooled: the Brexiteers crying crocodile tears for the people of Catalonia are precisely the folk who would be the first to squeal if the EU intervened in a member state. They’re just using it as another stick to beat the EU with.
In Scotland in Europe we set out the facts and what is at risk, for us, now. I want to see Scotland as an equal member of the world community, where the Tories and their Brexiteer chums will try to limit our horizons to a debate that begins and ends in a Palace by the Thames where we will always be a small outvoted minority. We have a choice to make, and I trust the people of Scotland to make that choice based on the reality of our situation.
The book is available at www.scotlandineurope.eu to download, print as a PDF or order as a hard copy sent to you. We’ll keep that resource updated and make sure it reflects where the debate actually is.