Today we have announced the formation of the SNP ‘In’ Europe campaign and I’m absolutely delighted to be serving as campaign director.
Our focus between now and the 23rd June will be in leading a positive, progressive and upbeat campaign in Scotland to stay in Europe.
In the end David Cameron’s announcement of the date came as little surprise and since his return from Brussels the media’s attention has been on the wrangling, in-fighting and posturing going on in the Tory party. And from the get go, the Prime Minister’s has begun the negative referendum rhetoric we’ve become so accustomed to hearing from him — by leaving the EU we will be taking a “step into the dark”, there’s a “real risk of uncertainty”, we’re living in a “dangerous world”. Repeat ad nauseam.
Scaremongering simply serves to push the undecideds towards leaving, or turns them off participating in this important democratic decision altogether.
But today the SNP moves beyond the nonsense — turning our focus away from fear and personalities to positivity and substance. And that’s the campaign we will lead.
The questions being fired at politicians from all parties are so far, so predictable. In or out? Will you link arms in campaigning with the Tories and Labour?
Let’s save everyone some time. The SNP is a proudly pro-Europe party.
And we know from experience how negatively the Tories and Labour conduct referendum campaigns, and that’s why we will be distinct — leading the campaign to remain in the EU from Scotland.
The EU is not perfect and hardly anyone would argue otherwise. Certainly, there are few international institutions or organisations that are completely problem free.
Likewise, we accept that the EU needs reform and have detailed how we wish to see this progress. The SNP wants to play a full role in moving Europe forward. Of course, our preference would be to do so as an independent country in Europe, but while we remain part of the UK we will work with others across the EU to face down shared challenges, and make the most of shared opportunities. With the SNP as the Government in Scotland and a bigger force than ever at Westminster there’s never been a better time to make our voice heard in this process.
EU membership brings real benefits to people in Scotland. Today the SNP has published new figures showing exports by small and medium sized businesses across Scotland have boomed by 60% over the past eight years — stimulated by the EU as our single greatest international market, allowing Scottish businesses to trade without barriers.
Besides exports, our membership supports jobs, investment, collective security and many of the social and employment protections we often take for granted.
In terms of the challenges facing Europe and the wider global community, a collective approach is required if we’re to make any effective difference.
Isolation can’t tackle climate change head on, nor can it find the solution to the refugee crisis. We need a coordinated Europe-wide approach, with Scotland and the UK playing our part.
On migration in Europe we must not allow the hyperbole of the right in politics to take its hold in Scotland. The UK government’s own figures accept that migration makes a positive contribution to public finances and job creation — increasing levels of employment amongst UK nationals too. The sensible approach should be in developing plans for a thought-out system of managed migration which makes the most of the opportunity, rather than classifying the unknown as a problem by default.
Let us turn the many benefits that EU membership offers to our advantage, rather than viewing them with narrow scepticism.
Over the coming weeks, the SNP will make that strong and positive case for staying in Europe. We will reach out to people from across Scotland — in business, our rural economy, in civic Scotland and to all people who live and work here and want to see the benefits of our EU membership maintained and developed further.
Let’s not take the EU for granted. Let’s not take the polls showing people in Scotland favour staying in the EU for granted either.
I am determined, alongside my friends and colleagues in the SNP, to make that case both passionately and persuasively in the lead-up to 23rd June — and we are determined to bring all of Scotland with us.
The SNP’s campaign to remain in the EU includes Humza Yousaf, Minister for Europe and International Development, as Campaign Director; Stephen Gethins MP, SNP Westminster spokesperson on Europe, as Deputy Campaign Director; Christina McKelvie MSP, Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s European and External Relations Committee, and businesswoman and entrepreneur Marie MacKlin CBE.