We’ve had the local elections in England and
Wales this week. What’s that got to do with Europe? Surely that’s just
about your local councillors looking after things like potholes and
parks, lifting the refuse and paying teachers and social workers?
But that isn’t the case at all.
UKIP, the UK Independence Party, came back
with a vote that represented one in four of the electorate. They didn’t
win control of any single council but the message is very clear.
Their followers seem to have two clear
aims: one is to stop immigration – and in the minds of their supporters,
that includes emigrants from the newer EU countries such as Bulgaria and
Romania – so freedom of movement to work and live would be seriously
compromised for residents not only of those countries but of the UK
UKIP’s other stated aim is to take the UK
out of Europe completely. Prime Minister David Cameron, who had already
committed to an in/out EU referendum in the next Parliament, suddenly
yielded to the pressure and it now appears he will try and do it in this
UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, says his party
has brought about a ‘sea change’ in politics.
Analysis of results shows that in many seats
won by Liberal Democrats, Labour or independent candidates, the combined
UKIP and Conservative share would have been enough to tip the result in
favour of the Conservatives.
Analysis in the media is measured, with most
seeing these elections as an indicator rather than Farage’s ‘sea
change’. There is no denying that a vote of around 23 per cent with the
Conservatives on 25 per cent is going to reverberate throughout the
mainstream UK political parties.
In Scotland, Farage has no truck whatsoever
with self-government. His policy would be to remove all our MSPs and put
a handful of MPs into the Scottish Parliament.
That would be but the first of many more
backward steps back into a future Scotland completely dominated by
Westminster. Along with that would of course go the devolved powers we
currently have over areas like justice, health, education and climate
change. Mr. Farage is in complete denial on climate change.
Set alongside Farage’s determination to
leave the EU, Scotland’s economy, prosperity and welfare would be
UKIP says it would repeal the European Human
Rights Act and the European Arrest Warrant – well, if the UK leaves the
EU they would automatically be repealed - and would “restore Britain’s
democracy to Britain’s people.”
I could go on. You can read more of the same
intemperance and intolerance in UKIPs election manifesto for the 2011
Scottish Parliamentary elections.
So all our human rights protections go in a
sweep if we leave the EU and along with that would go our free trade
with Europe. UKIP and indeed many Conservatives argue that free trade
with Europe could continue but why would it? Why would countries
like Germany and France trade on the basis we enjoy now with a non-EU
The European Union continues to be
Scotland’s top overseas export destination. Our exports to the EU are
worth over £11 billion a year.
Working in partnership with the other EU
countries is an imperative for us and we have no intention of abandoning
it. This powerhouse of 504 million people equates to a global power
about the size of North America.
Scotland wants to be there, as a
constructive member of the European Union, and independence will give us
a stronger voice than we could ever have via a sceptical UK one.
UKIP voters would never sanction an
independent Scotland. Fortunately, there are very few UKIP supporters in
Scotland but there are some. If we are to save ourselves and secure the
future for our families, we need independence and we need the EU.