Celebrating Eorpa

Languages_of_EuropeBy Toni Giugliano, Italian-born Scot (candidate for the European elections)

The hype over Romanian and Bulgarian migrants marked one of the most depressing aspects of Westminster politics, not because it was incited by UKIP but because the Westminster parties chose to pander to that party’s divisive rhetoric and shift to the right.

Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna, himself an immigrant’s son, said founders of the EU had “free movement of workers in mind, not free movement of jobseekers”. Yet research published by University College London shows that EU migrants are 33% less likely to claim benefits than UK nationals.

Indeed, EU migrants are net contributors to our economy. Between 2001 and 2011, they contributed 34% more to the fiscal system than they received, with a net contribution of £22.1 billion. Over the years they have opened businesses, created jobs and become part of the fabric of our culture and society. Scotland is rightly proud of its diverse migrant communities.

Tories accusing EU migrants of “benefit tourism” might well have become the norm. But for Labour to claim migration from Eastern Europe was, as Jack Straw put it, a spectacular mistake, shows the Westminster parties are dancing to Ukip’s tune. Even Liberal Democrats, once pro-Europe and pro-immigration, back tougher welfare rules for EU nationals.

So, who really pulls the strings at Westminster? Do we allow our welfare, immigration and Europe policies to be directed by Nigel Farage? Last year, Ireland then Lithuania set the agenda for 500 million Europeans by providing presidents of the European Council: two countries smaller than Scotland but with more MEPs, their own commissioner and the power to steer EU policy for six months.

Why shouldn’t Scotland do the same? Instead we’re represented by the skeptics of Europe and their isolationism is costing us dear. We have a Prime Minister threatening to withdraw from the social chapter, which protects workers’ rights. Would our First Minister agree? What about a UK Chancellor taking Brussels to court for introducing caps on bankers’ bonuses? Would John Swinney do that? A Home Secretary considering withdrawal from the European Arrest warrant. Would Kenny MacAskill do the same?

A Rural Affairs Secretary calling for a reduction to the agriculture budget, when Scotland already gets the worst farming deal in Europe. Would Richard Lochhead agree? An Employment Minister refusing to implement Europe’s Youth Guarantee to put young people into work.Would Angela Constance back that? A Work and Pensions Secretary rejecting EU funding for food banks to help the most vulnerable. Which Scottish Government, of any stripe, would countenance that?

For the past four decades, the UK has been on the edges, not shaping the European debate but merely reacting through a Europhobic lens. Scotland needs the power to respond to European initiatives based on its distinct priorities and needs.

As two independent member states, Scotland and the UK would, combined, have a stronger voice with more votes to pursue common goals, and where we disagreed, the power to take a different path. A year ago, the UK, Denmark and Ireland celebrated 40 years of EU membership. Dublin marked it with a successful EU presidency, a US-EU trade deal and reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. The UK marked it with a Prime Minister announcing a referendum to quit.

Today, on Europe Day, let’s reflect on the kind of relationship we want with our partners. Do we accept that the overwhelming population of the UK could, in an in-out referendum, vote to drag us out of Europe against our will?

Or do we take control, determine our future in Europe ourselves, embark on a constructive relationship with our neighbours and have a direct voice at the negotiating table? It’s time to make a contribution to the direction taken by Europe. Let’s leave the europhobia behind and take our rightful place in the family of nations.

 

This article first appeared in the Herald, 9th May 2014.



Categories: Commentary

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12 replies

  1. I still find it odd that blogs ‘push’ for full EU membership hence the assumption that the above is all relevant. Perhaps its time for bloggers to ‘push’ what choices Scotland could have if independent. Informative choice rather than steam rolling SNP’s stance.

    • I was under the impression that we still have freedom of speech Steven, so please, let’s hear you tuppence worth.

      • I think he just gave it… if a politician’s job is not to inform in order that we can decide who to vote for then what is their purpose?

        I don’t think that anyone (agree or disagree with Toni) could call this an informative piece. It’s more like a piece of literary cheerleading and a cheap one at that.

  2. Trade with Europe was an integral part of the Scottish economy until the Union. The letter dated eleventh October 1297 from Andrew Moray and William Wallace to ” Our good friends, the Senate and the commoners of Lubeck and of Hamburg greeting and a continuous increase of sincere affection.” resonates down the centuries. They had kicked off the English shackles and were free to trade with Europe again!
    Now it’s our turn.

  3. A few years ago,when Westminster started talking about withdrawing from the EU,I thought that the Scottish referendum might have a mitigating effect.
    Wrong!
    Whether we remain in the EU or not will be a decision,made in England,driven by politics in England.
    Cameron will be unable to change EU migration policy because it is a core value which will leave him with a straight In/Out choice for his referendum.
    Scots need to decide in September whether they want London to continue making major decisions on our behalf or whether we can do better ourselves.

    • Whether Scotland remains in the EU or not seems to be a decision that will be made by the SNP and not by the people of Scotland.

      Many things will improve with a vote for independence in September… the case for or against and indeed a choice of whether to be in Europe or not won’t be improved if the SNP have anything to do with it.

  4. Where is Cornwall and Cornish on you map? We are a recognised national minority now after all. You’d be better getting you maps here at eurominority: http://www.eurominority.eu/version/maps/map-nations2.asp

  5. “As two independent member states, Scotland and the UK would, combined, have a stronger voice with more votes to pursue common goals, and where we disagreed, the power to take a different path. A year ago, the UK, Denmark and Ireland celebrated 40 years of EU membership. Dublin marked it with a successful EU presidency, a US-EU trade deal and reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. The UK marked it with a Prime Minister announcing a referendum to quit.”

    Could this be any more lacking in substance? A successful EU presidency – that is President of the Council of the European Union… not the President of the European Council who is actually the representative of Europe in international affairs. Furthermore, the presidency of the CoEU only lasts for 6 months… not much time to do anything successfully in politics!

    With regards to the US-EU trade deal, you should really read up about TTIP if you think it’s a good thing! Also, every member of the CoEU announced it to their own countries as if it was their own so even if it was to be seen as a good thing by anyone with two brain cells to rub together it certainly isn’t the sole doing of the Irish CoEU President.

    On the Common Fisheries Policy reform… most fishermen in Scotland grudgingly admit it’s better than what they had before but nowhere near good enough.

    Common Agricultural Policy is similarly flawed and seen as so by many in Europe.

    As for offsetting these things with your comment on the Prime Minister… I can see why you are a politician! I believe cheap points scoring, completely lacking in substance, is a prerequisite ability.

    This sort of writing (Westminster – BAD, Scotland/SNP – GOOD) is doing more to harm our debate about independence and what to do with it should we attain it than it is good. You’d have more of a challenge painting by numbers than writing this drivel although I see you’ve already done a map of Europe… well done 🙂

  6. Your quote is highly selective – “when Scotland already gets the worst farming deal in Europe”.

    Scotland’s farmers get more per head than any other farmers in the EU.

    On what justification should this gap be widened further?

  7. The EU has long since been the prisoner of corporate capture. Call it how you like, but any organisation that promotes a policy whereby say, a company operating in a low-wage economy (e.g. Poland) can pay “local wages” when it wins a contract in an other EU country paying higher wages (e.g. Sweden) is rate-busting as far as I’m concerned.

    We must demand a referendum on EU membership after Independence.

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