IN amongst the bleakness of UK politics, and Westminster in particular, there’s two things that keep me going – that the shambolic repellence of this rotten UK Government will win more Scots to Yes, and that the real world chaos of Brexit will boost our case, independence in Europe. Last week I had a boost myself, finally getting back to Brussels after the long Covid absence.

I was over with friends from the SNP Westminster Defence team, Stewart McDonald, Dave Doogan and Carol Monaghan, for meetings across the key institutions we want to see an independent Scotland join: the EU and Nato. We were received across all institutions warmly, and it was good to compare notes on everything happening in the world as both organisations go through significant changes, all of which are of top relevance to Scotland given we want to be part of them as an independent state. The SNP is the most pro-EU party in Scotland, and even more so in UK politics. We are a distinctive voice and a welcome one in Brussels.

I was able to catch up personally with a number of friends across other places in Brussels, and they are unanimous – the UK is old news and any travails about the Northern Ireland Protocol or London based histrionics are simply not anywhere near the top of anyone’s agenda.

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A structure has been created so that some small amount of officials are tasked with making the relationship with the UK work, but it is not front and centre of any institution’s work and there is no appetite for nonsense given there is an actual war to the Eastern border.

So from a Scottish perspective we need to be sensitive to that reality – we’re welcome, of course we are, but it is a big old world out there and we need to work for the attention we get. We are respectful of the fact that, unlike the Brexiteers, we do not believe the world revolves around us. We are internationalists, we want to join the world precisely because we want to join organisations to play our part, a different role than we will be able to play while represented in the world (and in the EU not at all) by a UK Government Scotland clearly rejected.

And we cannot overinvest in being visible on all fronts in Brussels, not necessarily talking about the constitution but about what we bring to the European discussions. Scotland is ideally placed to work with our European friends at the mainstream of European thinking on so many issues. To list a few:

Energy. Scotland is blessed in every energy humankind can imagine – the energies of the past, present and future. We are in an ideal position to partner with other European countries as a stable and reliable energy partner as our wider European continent finally catches up on the need for energy independence, and particularly not being dependent upon despotic regimes for energy.

Precisely because we have such a flourishing energy sector, we also have a flourishing renewables sector too which has great times ahead. We can help the wider continent to evolve and accelerate that clean tech, as well as retrofit all buildings and transport infrastructure to save energy consumption.

Climate Change. Scotland has some of the most ambitious targets on the Just Transition of any developed country and is well advanced in making them real, as well as in reaching out to the wider world to help with climate mitigation projects and climate justice. This fits entirely with the EU’s ambitions which are themselves under pressure given the energy crisis.

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Education. Scotland has more universities per head than most countries, and universities play a greater role in our public life, and indeed economy, than most countries. Getting back into the EU will be a huge advantage to our Higher and Further education sectors, and we should not be shy in stressing what an interest we have in boosting their international connectivity by getting back into the European frameworks, and budgets.

Speaking of budgets, regional development. The Brexiteers promised to replace EU funds with domestic spend, but those lies have been exposed as the cruel deception they are as the reality of the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda has become clear. It is buttons compared to the EU funds Scotland would have had as part of the EU, and what little money there is is massively politically driven – by the UK government. We have development experts in droves all too keen to contribute to the EU’s debates on this again.

And there’s more, much more. Scotland brings a huge amount to the EU table and can make a contribution that we simply will not make as part of the UK. Smoothing the accession process into the EU and Nato will be a big job and plenty people are working on that, but we can all of us contribute to the wider discussion on each of the areas where we have an enthusiasm and expertise to bring to the EU, working with our friends and partners to the betterment of an entire continent, and wider. Independence in Europe has never been more attractive, that two-way discussion is underway and about to get a lot more visible.