So, here we are in 2017 – a new year. No new beginning though, we still have to see through the issues that arose in 2016, and none more important to Scotland than the implications of the June referendum. That of course was about maintaining membership of the European Union. Brexit, to use the shorthand, was the result. This despite people in Scotland voting to remain in the EU by an overwhelming 24-point margin. That includes those of us who live in South Lanarkshire – every local authority area in our nation voted Remain.
The Scottish National Party has been clear from the start that we believe full EU membership is the best position for Scotland. I have previously outlined in the EK News, the reasons for my firm belief, and many East Kilbride residents have raised the same concerns with me.
In the light of the UK result the Scottish Government made it clear all options would be explored to protect Scotland’s place in Europe. Despite all the shilly-shallying and contradictions of both the Conservative and Labour parties since, this approach was reinforced by a strong mandate given by the Scottish Parliament on 28th June 2016.
That’s why, at the end of 2016, the Scottish Government published a set of proposals designed to mitigate the risks of Scotland being taken out of the EU. The paper was developed following much consultation and attention given to the expert views of the Scottish Government’s Standing Council on Europe. “Scotland’s Place in Europe” can be accessed on www.gov.scot/scotlandineurope, or contact me if you would like a paper copy.
At the heart of the plan is keeping Scotland in the European Single Market – vital for jobs, investment and our long-term prosperity. It makes no sense for the UK to leave the Single Market, but if that is the result of their negotiations, then we’ve also set out how Scotland can retain single market membership as part of the UK. Of course the powers of the Scottish Parliament should be enhanced to reflect and protect Scotland’s interests. This point has been conceded by the ‘Leave’ campaign and by the UK Government since the vote.
Negotiations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU have not begun. The UK Government has produced no plan, no road-map and no explanation of where we stand. The Scottish Government’s paper is the first document to present any detailed analysis of the way forward for the UK and its constituent parts. As Eilidh Wiseman, President of the Law Society of Scotland commented: “It is vital for the UK Government to take the views of all devolved administrations into account”.
The UK Government has said that it will pay close attention to the views of the Scottish Parliament and Government. The Prime Minister said clearly that she was committed to ensuring Scotland was fully engaged in UK Government discussions on its future relationship with the EU.
It’s time for the UK Government to prove their contention that Scotland is an equal partner in the UK; that Scotland is indeed part of the ‘family of nations’ and not merely a troublesome region to be ignored. It’s time for them to listen and consider seriously the proposals put forward by our First Minister which are backed by a broad consensus of Scottish opinion.
It’s time for the opposition parties in Scotland to recognise that they were elected to serve Scotland’s interests and stick up for our country. Whether or not they want to remain or leave the European Union, whether or not they consider themselves nationalist or unionist, their most important consideration should be Scotland’s best interests. They should back Scotland’s voice in this discussion about the future of our nation, its people, its economy, jobs and rights. That’s true patriotism.
Professor Sir David Edward, Scottish lawyer and academic and former Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities, is one of the respected members of the Scottish Government’s Standing Council on Europe. He sums it up: “So I urge everyone who cares for the future of Scotland to read the Scottish Government’s paper with an open mind.”
So, roll on 2017, roll on the best possible option for Scotland. I hope individually that for you the coming year is a good one.