WITH this week bringing the fifth anniversary of the independence referendum we should all have a quiet moment of reflection at how much has changed and how far we’ve come. But only a moment, because we still have an argument to win and the big prize – independence in Europe – remains as yet unwon.
First published in The National, 20 September 2019
And we’ll win that argument by winning seats and winning votes, so this week I have been in Stirling. It was a quiet week in Brussels so I decided to be out and about in the constituency, meeting local members and organisations. I’ve been delighted with the response and really heartened that members are up for the challenges ahead.
I passed vetting ages ago, so was eligible to be nominated by Bridge of Allan branch on Monday as well as, on Wednesday, Trossachs and Teith branch. In the SNP the members are in charge, and it will be the members that select their candidate best placed to take on the Tories and win. I’ve also, I’ll be honest, been surprised by how little reaction I’ve had to presenting myself for a Westminster seat so soon after leading our team to our best ever result in a European election. If I’m so committed to Scotland in Europe, why go for Westminster?
Everyone seems to have agreed with me that I’m a Buy One Get One Free! Select me for Stirling, I’m going for no other seat, and I can unite the pro-EU majority behind our colours. I’m on a list in Brussels so if I am selected by the members and I win, then I demit office in Brussels (I could not legally do both under the European Parliament’s rules) and am replaced by the next SNP candidate in the European elections, Margaret Ferrier.
The party’s representation in Brussels doesn’t suffer, and we win back a crucial seat from the Tories, turning a big chunk of Scotland yellow, depriving them of one more vote at a time when all votes will count. I’ll also take 15 years of frontline European experience with me to the Commons at a time when European issues will dominate and we need to win the argument that independence in Europe is Scotland’s best future.
So I’m recruiting. Not just to win the selection but to win the seat back. I’m putting a campaign team together now across the branches and the constituency, and invite everyone to show their support. If you’d like to get involved email me at Alyn@alynsmith.eu and we’ll work to win.
We do not know what is in Scotland’s future, and do not know when an election might be called, but we know it is coming and things cannot go on as they are. Between 2015 and 2017 we lost 5640 votes. There will be a time to honestly examine why, but the past is the past and meantime I want them back.
And I can put Stirling on the map at Westminster. Perceptions of Scotland have changed utterly since 2014. In 2014 a number of folks did not get the “why” of independence, they do now.
We were told we were a partnership of nations, a family, yet within hours of the results the disastrous David Cameron (below) was talking about English votes for English laws. A number of people voted No because they were concerned on the European question, not wanting to risk their EU rights. They are with us in spades now. But particularly across the EU, Scotland is seen differently as now admitted by former President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy. He gave an interview to the BBC Scotland’s Glenn Campbell about attitudes across Brussels and the EU to Scotland, and admitted the change. We’ve worked hard to make it happen, but it is heartening to see.
In the wider world too, people in Scotland and elsewhere are appalled at the frankly second rate people pretending to represent the UK. Even on Monday in Luxembourg the excruciating spectacle of the UK Prime Minister backing out of a press conference last minute because he didn’t want to be booed by onlookers. I’ll confess it is not much of a good look all around but the anger from his host, the usually avuncular Xavier Bettel was clear for all to see. These people are making us look like fools and Scotland can do better.
EU accession is not automatic, but there’s a well worn path and where there’s a will there’s a way. There is not a doubt in my mind that each and every EU member state will recognise a legally agreed referendum and be enthusiastic to bring us back into the EU fold.
Note the importance of legally agreed there.
The EU is a community based on democracy and the rule of law, there is just no prospect whatsoever of any other route being recognised. That suits us fine, we will always in any event choose the legal route, we should of course examine all the options and be ready for all the eventualities, but we have already established what the Gold Standard referendum looks like, we can hardly go back on that and expect to be taken seriously, at home or abroad.
So it is tough times for a lot of people, and they’re looking to us for hope, for reassurance that we’re at our posts and working hard to represent their interests. We are, and I’m proud to be part of a team working hard in every council chamber and every Parliament to fight for Scotland.