The result of the European Election was yet another victory for the SNP. Once again we topped the poll, increasing our number of votes, in what must be regarded as a vote of confidence following seven successful years of the SNP in Government. I was proud to be a part of the excellent SNP team of Euro candidates, and I thank them very much, along with all of the SNP members who worked so hard on the campaign trail. Unfortunately, once again, the SNP share of the votes cast fell a small fraction short of what was required to strengthen and refresh our European Parliamentary Group by electing a third MEP.
With the full Scottish result declared, the SNP clearly won the popular vote – increasing our tally of votes by 68,496 compared with 2009, and securing a 28.9 per cent share. This is a bigger share of the vote than UKIP achieved in the UK as a whole or in England alone, and a bigger share of the vote than Labour secured in Wales, where these parties topped the polls. UKIP achieved a smaller share of the vote in Scotland than in any electoral area south of the border.
There is a world of difference between the results in Scotland and in the rest of the UK. UKIP's performance in the rest of the UK demonstrates the real and increasing threat to Scotland's place in the EU that comes from being part of the Westminster system. But in Scotland UKIP have come fourth with only around a third of the vote share they attracted in the rest of the UK, despite the wall to wall media coverage of their antics that has been beamed into Scotland recently.
With the Unionist parties now having to do even more to respond to UKIP's agenda, as they desperately try to maintain their prospects on the Westminster career ladder, it is clearer than ever that the only way to protect Scotland's place in Europe, with all that that entails for jobs and investment, is with a Yes vote in September.
Within days of the Euro election results being declared, the 28 Member States met to begin the process of nominating their choice of Commissioners, to seek consensus on nominees for the key roles of Commission and Council Presidents and to draft a programme of priorities for the next five years. With Independence, Scotland would have the right to participate in these important talks too.
We know from long experience that Westminster governments regularly fail us in the EU. Their priorities are not always our priorities and Scotland can find itself short-changed and too often our interests are overlooked altogether. Independence will bring a huge change for the better. For the very first time, we will be able to participate on our own behalf at every level in the EU's legislative and policy process, and it will be Scotland's democratic institutions which will ratify (or not) any reforms to European treaties. Such decisions should be based on Scotland's best interest rather than the present situation of Westminster retaining the final say in all negotiations.
I strongly believe that Scotland's experience as a member of the EU will be transformed into a much more positive one, once we have the right play a constructive part in all of the top table meetings among member states. The EU works on the basis of consensus. All member states, large and small, have a voice. Working together, small nations such as Scotland have a track record of effectively shaping policy for the entire EU, and looking after their own key interests in the process.
The EU plays a vital role in the Scottish economy, with thousands of jobs dependent on European co-operation. The EU also determines important aspects of social policy and, as our economies recover from the economic crisis, it is essential that our citizens' rights are adequately protected.
The SNP will continue to work with other progressive voices in the European Parliament to ensure that economic recovery is built on a strong foundation of social justice. We believe that workers' rights should be safeguarded and that equality should be at the heart of all EU policy.
The establishment of the European Single market is one of the crowning achievements of the EU.
It is now the world's biggest, and in 2010, accounted for more than 25 per cent of total world economic output by GDP. That is a remarkable testament to its success. By ensuring the free movement of goods, services, capital and people, the single market has brought benefits to business, consumers and workers alike, generating millions of extra jobs. Scotland is already a substantial beneficiary. The single market provides our businesses with greater access to suppliers, labour and customers. Competition also keeps the cost of goods and services down.
The EU is the main destination for Scottish international exports. Since 2006, provisions of Scottish goods and services to the EU have increased by more than 35 per cent.
In September voters in Scotland have a tremendous opportunity, with a Yes vote, to win the right to participate as an equal with input to all decision-making in the EU and other international bodies. Let us campaign with all of our energy to win Scotland's referendum.