AS the UK steadily trashes what’s left of its international reputation, spiralling ever faster down the Brexit plughole and leaving our European neighbours baffled at the incompetence of Westminster’s broken political system, it’s perhaps inevitable that we’re not all keeping track of how the wider debate about the future of Europe is going.

Most of us just want to stay in as members, but whichever side of that debate you’re on it tends to be mostly about what leaving would mean, rather than what staying would mean.

But most of our fellow Europeans are more concerned with Europe’s place in a wider world than the self-inflicted chaos in the UK.

READ MORE: Greens hit back after Scottish Tories accuse them of wasting time ‘whining about Brexit’

In the wake of the financial crash just over a decade ago some people predicted the collapse of Europe’s currency and its fundamental failure as a political project. The far right and a more xenophobic form of nationalism than we recognise in Scotland have exploited fears and anxieties about migration, and produced a toxic resurgence of the threats Europe thought it had overcome in the last century, putting at risk the very basis of human rights and the international rules-based order. The asylum crisis continues, with people still risking and losing their lives in the journey to Europe whether across the Mediterranean or elsewhere. One of the key drivers of that crisis, the climate emergency, is just part of the connected series of ecological consequences of our unsustainable economy which is literally destroying the living world around us.

Humanity doesn’t have its problems to seek at the moment, and these can be scary times.

But Europe as an international community has faced existential challenges before, and risen to meet them. The institutions of Europe grew out of a recognition that the cycle of wars had to end, and that co-operation and sharing could offer the economic basis for peace.

Now Europe must respond to this century’s challenges, redefining its place in the world we see around us and helping to shape a better one.

Instead of being scared of the scale of today’s challenges, we need to rekindle hope in our capacity to build a shared project to face them and make people’s lives better. New ideas and energy is emerging in European politics, from reasserting the right to asylum and establishing new safe routes of entry to Europe, to co-ordinated efforts to establish a guaranteed decent minimum income and fair labour standards against a changing technological landscape. From investment in a Green New Deal to harness renewable resources and eliminate wasteful consumption, to opening up new opportunities for young people so that our economy’s purpose is meeting people’s needs instead of exploiting them. From innovations on tackling corporate tax dodging, to the recognition that some of the same giant companies are also hacking our democracy and cannot be trusted to self-regulate. Green ideas are at the heart of this new political creativity.

The National: European elections could be held in the UK, depending on how Brexit proceeds at WestminsterEuropean elections could be held in the UK, depending on how Brexit proceeds at Westminster

A myth has been allowed to develop that only the far-right populists are gaining ground. But while it’s true that they pose a serious threat, the truth is that in many European countries it’s the Greens people are turning to for a positive vision of the future. People want a political movement that’s not afraid to acknowledge the challenges we face and the failings of the political centre ground, but which is not willing to let our societies turn inward against one another. In countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and in many parts of Germany the “Green Wave” is overtaking not only the far right but also failed parties of the centre and the old left too.

Green candidates are gaining ground at local, municipal and member state levels, and they are campaigning confidently for the European Parliament election too.

READ MORE: As the Greens’ new Holyrood co-leader, I’ll make sure we lead change in Scotland

That’s why I welcome the growing possibility that Scotland will also have the chance of contesting those elections and keeping our representation in Europe’s democracy. The Tory Party might be unhappy about asking its reluctant campaigners to get out on the doorsteps; other parties which have dithered on Brexit or even facilitated it might feel the same. But if we have the chance to take part, the Green parties in Scotland and throughout these islands will relish the opportunity.

The Scottish Greens would jump at the chance to help Scotland unburden itself of its bizarrely incoherent far-right MEP David Coburn, who stood on a Ukip ticket, and to elect someone who can make the case in Europe for the Green New Deal Scotland needs. An MEP who will advocate for an urgent and radical shift away from the oil and gas industry and into clean energy, and ending our reliance on arms manufacturers and corporate tax dodgers, in favour of an economy that puts the public interest first, working in partnership as part of the European family we belong to.