Don't let us down
“Do not let us down” was the impassioned plea to members of the European Parliament this week by the SNP’s Alyn Smith. Speaking on behalf of a nation facing the real prospects of being dragged from the EU despite the democratic vote of the people of Scotland to stay raises some difficult questions for EU lawmakers.
The strong Scottish vote to remain in The EU appears to have softened the previously hard-line views of some senior EU officials towards Scotland and our independence movement.
Scotland is and always has been a proud European nation, in fact we have been Europeans for much longer than we have been British! For many the thought of leaving Europe on a vote skewed by false figures and fuelled by a dislike for foreigners is heart-breaking.
The SNP are determined to do whatever it takes to protect Scotland’s relationship with the European Union. Our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has made it clear that she will make sure that Scotland’s voice is heard as widely as possible - in London and in Brussels where she met with the major groups in the European Parliament, and the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz and Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
Scottish Government Ministers have also already held talks with representatives from the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Germany, France…and Gibraltar. These talks represent the first diplomatic mission of a Scottish administration for more than 300 years!
The Government have established an expert group, made of up of specialists in European, financial, business and diplomatic matters to advise the Scottish Government on securing Scotland’s relationship with the EU.
But we know that all of this on its own may not be enough, so the Scottish Government has prepared the legislation required to hold a second independence referendum. If, after negotiations, it becomes clear that independence is the best way to secure Scotland’s place in the EU then it will be on the table and will be a decision for the people of Scotland to take.
Already key EU figures such as the former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has said that they would be “no big obstacles” to an independent Scotland retaining its place in the EU.
The only obstacle that I can see would be the UK Government itself. It would likely seek to make the argument that the UK as a single nation state had voted to leave the EU. But Scotland isn’t merely a region of England, we are a nation.
In Catalonia the President has drawn a parallel here saying that if the UK can withdraw from Europe without the full consent of its member states then there is nothing stopping Catalonia from leaving Spain without the consent of the Government in Madrid.
While I may not agree entirely with that view, I do believe that the people of nations are sovereign. In Scotland, our people voted to European. In Catalonia you have voted again and again to be Catalans. It’s time for both our voices and votes to be heard and respected. Europe must not let us down!
Founder of the SNP Friends of Catalonia and the Deputy Leader of the Glasgow City Council SNP Group.