THERE’S the old joke about the American tourist lost in Ireland, who asks a local for directions to be told: “Ach bejaysus, if I was going to Tipperary I wouldn’t start out from here”. Right there, that’s how I feel about this EU Referendum. We didn’t ask for it, we certainly didn’t want it right after the Holyrood election, and even the way it is playing out is pretty unappealing, with the echoes of Project Fear unmistakable to a Scottish ear. “A plague on both your houses” is an entirely rational response.
But that’s what Leave want. They want a low turnout. They want us to walk away, giving everything to a Tory in name but Ukip in purpose UK majority until 2020. And there is a lot at stake for Scotland. Ian Hudghton MEP and I have published the facts at scotlandineurope.eu to let people see how much we achieve in the EU, and I’m glad so many folk are using it to counter the blizzard of half truths, misrepresentations and outright lies coming from Leave.
This is Scotland’s fight. And a lot of the things most at risk are things most taken for granted. So I’ll give a few more examples of things we have achieved, things which without a multilateral co-operation would have been practically impossible. The alternative to the EU would be 28 x 28 bilateral treaties. These rights simply wouldn’t have happened, and outwith the EU will be lost unless something replaces them.
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- Freedom to live, travel, work, study or retire in all Member States. We have agreed EU legislation on freedom of movement that guarantees access to social security and to healthcare systems.
- European Health Insurance Card. As EU citizens we have a right to emergency treatment in any other EU country on the same conditions as locals, avoiding massive hospital fees, insurance costs and paperwork.
- The Victims’ Rights Directive. As more EU citizens travel across the EU, so, sadly, are more people a victim of crime away from home. They now have rights in that process, to an interpreter, explanation of the process and clear information about what is happening. The Directive has Scottish fingerprints all over it. Scotland is acknowledged to lead the EU in treatment of victims.
- We are abolishing mobile phone roaming fees from June 2017 so you can use your mobile anywhere across the EU without fear of huge fees.
- Tackling tax avoidance. The Commission has been tasked with cracking down on tax evasion, the penny having dropped that industrial-scale tax evasion we now see is just beggar my neighbour. The Tax Avoidance Directive will be coming soon; only acting together will we win.
- The European Arrest Warrant. Around 6500 criminals have been deported from the UK since 2010 thanks to structured co-operation between law enforcement agencies.
- Single market without barriers to trade. For example, a single EU law on food labelling means that our food exporters don’t have to design 28 different packet labels to meet 28 different sets of rules. You can trade in other countries just like you can at home. This creates 500 million potential customers for our products. And don’t let Leave kid you on, if we want to continue to sell into the EU, there is no question we’ll do it on their terms.
- Financial services. EU single-market legislation creates the right to “passport” your services once you are authorised to market services in one Member State, you are authorised to market them in all. This creates huge opportunities for Scottish firms, creating real jobs in Scotland.
- Cross-border transport and energy infrastructure through the Connecting Europe Facility. The EU is investing in infrastructure to join up our energy and transport sectors: €4.7billion for energy, €24bn for transport.
- Freedom from discrimination. EU legislation gave us the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of age, sexual orientation or religious belief for the first time. Those rights did not previously exist in UK law (UK law covered racial and gender discrimination).
- Funding and enabling collaborative research. The Marie Curie programme gives grants to researchers to work across other countries, which helps innovation and is crucial for Scottish science. More than €6bn of funding finance more than 25,000 PhDs.
And there’s more. And it is all at risk for an internal Tory feud that probably started at Eton junior common room and seems pretty alien to Scotland. But it is our fight. Yes, something could be arranged to replace all the guaranteed advantages we have. It will be negotiated by people who think sovereignty begins and ends in a Palace by the Thames. We have nine days to reclaim EURef for Scotland.