SINCE devolution began, our country’s political aspirations have strained against the limited power of our parliament. Obviously independence supporters feel more uncomfortable with those limits than others, and indeed one reason why support for independence has grown is that people who are not motivated by flags or patriotism have seen how Scotland’s potential is being held back.

But even Unionists have often found those limitations too restrictive. Jack McConnell, for example, was the first minister who first tried to carve out roles for Holyrood on international development and immigration.

One area where MSPs have had no real say, but may soon get one, is trade policy. The UK Government is taking a Trade Bill through Westminster and started out by trying to abolish all parliamentary scrutiny and accountability for the deals they have in mind. That would suit the likes of Liam Fox and other hard-right ideologues who think the free market can do no wrong. It would suit the Trump regime as well, who would like to flood the UK market with everything from chlorinated chicken to knock-off versions of Scotch whisky.

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At the moment, the EU negotiates international trade agreements. Though the scrutiny and accountability are far from perfect, MEPs have to approve the “negotiating mandate” which sets out what Europe’s trying to achieve, they get information in each negotiating round and they have to sign off the final agreement before it can be adopted. The EU’s constituent members also have their own oversight arrangements, with their governments and parliaments both playing their roles.

The UK wanted none of this – no parliamentary approval, even at Westminster, and definitely no role for Scotland or the other devolved nations. Despite some amendments to try to fix this, Scotland’s input is still looking very dubious. It might be nothing more than “consultation”, and the tired old commitment to “not normally” interfere with devolved matters without our consent. This has already been exposed as utterly meaningless.

Trade negotiations are reserved, but modern trade deals go far beyond tariffs and border controls – they impact on huge areas of existing devolved authority, like pollution and animal welfare. If they cover services as well as goods, they can threaten democratic control of public services. The dispute settlement procedures they often contain could restrict the Scottish Parliament’s ability to act on issues like alcohol pricing or public health.

These are among the reasons why the European Greens opposed TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – a few years ago, as did the SNP. People across Europe campaigned together and defeated that dangerous trade deal. This is the kind of power we will need to be able to exercise against the UK Government if they drag us out of Europe – strong parliamentary scrutiny, public involvement and a clear binding role for each nation, so the UK can’t just say we’ve been consulted and then ignore what we’ve said.

But if Scotland’s going to have that role in future, either as part of the UK or as an independent member of the EU, it means we need to step up and debate trade policy in a more coherent way than we’ve done before.

The Scottish Government appeared before Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution Committee this week to discuss the Trade Bill, and its position was disappointingly vague and centrist. “Trade is a good thing… we’d like Scotland to do more trade... some sectors of our economy could benefit.” That was more or less the position.

Scotland needs a distinctive voice, and a clear position. We’re living in a time when unregulated markets are running riot, causing social and environmental chaos; when a delusional US president is starting trade wars without even understanding how tariffs work; when the UK Government’s sole policy is a hard-right Brexit project that’s in the hands of free-market obsessives who oppose the power of the state to protect people from big business.

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Yet the Scottish Government isn’t able to set out a clear stance. Does it believe that free trade is inherently a good thing? Does it see a role for protectionism? Does it want more restrictions on governments’ actions through state aid rules, or a looser regime where the public interest comes before companies’ right to compete?

So far, Scottish Ministers are saying they won’t give consent to the Trade Bill. That’s good, but it’s only a start. Whether we’re to try to carve out a new role in trade policy within a post-Brexit UK, or preferably to become a full EU member state and get the chance to help shape Europe’s trade policy, we need to develop a coherent position.

And if Scotland elects a Green MEP next Thursday, they’ll work with the strong Green Group in Europe to put the priority on trade justice, high standards and protection of people and our planet.