Our place in Europe is now at stake
Given recent experience, the referendum process may feel familiar to people in Scotland, but now the question is an entirely new one. A referendum on our EU membership will be held soon – by the end of 2017 – and while readers of Holyrood magazine would be forgiven for skipping past a piece from another referendum campaigner, it is vital that Scottish voters are reminded that our place in Europe is now at stake.
The fact is that Scotland is stronger, safer, and better off in Europe. Our economy and society are stronger, and our security is enhanced, as a result of being in.
Being part of the world’s largest market supports jobs and businesses in Scotland. It is estimated that 330,000 Scottish jobs are linked with trade with the EU, and major employers such as BAE Systems, Diageo and Shell have declared that Europe helps Scottish business to thrive and invest.
In a report published last month, the Scotch Whisky Association said: “The EU’s single market, including its regulation of food and drink, and single trade policy are central to Scotch whisky’s success, letting us trade across the EU simply and easily.” When perhaps the most iconic Scottish industry says its future will be brightest in Europe, we should sit up and take notice.
In the wake of the tragic terrorist attack in Paris, which is reported to have been planned in Belgium and in Syria, it is clear that international co-operation and solidarity is vital to ensure we can keep ourselves safe. Being in Europe helps us share intelligence with our partners, such as passenger information, and the European Arrest Warrant allows us to bring terrorist suspects who have fled the country to justice.
We have a louder voice in the world because of our membership of Europe than we would if we were outside. The UK and Scottish governments’ efforts to wipe out the Ebola virus were boosted by EU funding. And the EU has imposed sanctions on Russia and beaten piracy off the Horn of Africa, both priorities for us in the UK.
Europe offers opportunities for people across the country. EU action on climate change will boost the low-carbon industries in which Scotland excels. The Erasmus programme allows students from Aberdeen to study in Athens. And a new CEBR report estimates the EU’s trading agenda could create 790,000 jobs across the UK by 2030.
The various “out” campaigns have serially failed to form any kind of convincing vision of what the UK, and indeed Scotland, would look like outside Europe. Would we, like Norway, still be subject to EU rules and pay a contribution without having any say in making the rules? Or would we cut ourselves off entirely and force our businesses to pay tariffs on every product they sold to Europe? Furthermore, they utterly disregard the possible consequences of exit for working people right across Scotland and the rest of the UK. Pointing out the flaws in Nigel Farage’s arguments is not scaremongering – it is responsible campaigning.
As the executive director of the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign, I will be making the positive, passionate and principled case that Scotland is better off in. I will be happy to work with people from all parties and none to achieve that goal. And I am heartened by the degree of cross-party unity in Scottish politics, with Nicola Sturgeon, Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson all making a positive case for Britain’s place in Europe.
Will Straw is Executive Director of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign
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