Scotland stands at a crossroads. In September voters will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to choose between two futures. We can either continue being ruled by a distant government at Westminster, currently a LibDem-supported Tory Government that Scotland did not vote for – or we can Vote Yes to shape our own future and forge alliances in the wider world, as a normal, independent nation. Before then however we have the European elections on Thursday 22nd May – and these will also be of immense importance in shaping Scotland’s future. The SNP has a forward-looking vision of an independent Scotland playing a full role in the EU’s development This contrasts sharply with the increasingly inward-looking political discourse taking place elsewhere in the UK. Politicians of all the London-based parties are being driven by an agenda set by anti-immigrant Eurosceptics intent on dragging the UK out of the EU. The SNP’s vision couldn’t be more different: we see Scotland becoming a full and equal member of the European family of nations. The coming years will be important in shaping the direction of the EU as our economies continue to recover from the financial crisis. The political makeup of the European Parliament will help determine just what path Europe takes – and the SNP is committed to fighting for a socially just EU. We believe that an independent Scotland can become a beacon of progressive opinion. Similarly, we consider that a strong SNP team in the European Parliament will help ensure that the EU implements policies which will enable economic recovery – whilst ensuring social justice and environmental sustainability. In government in Scotland we have ensured that vital public services such as the NHS have remained true to their founding principles, there for the public good – not for private profit. Elsewhere in the UK the opposite appears to be the case under the Tory-LibDem coalition – and these moves away from strong public services appear to be supported by a Scottish Labour party which speaks of public welfare as a “something for nothing” culture. Similar issues perennially arise in the European Parliament where progressive parties must regularly defend public services from a privatisation agenda. The SNP will continue to take a progressive stance against attacks on Europe’s public services – just as we have rejected the privatisation agenda of the Tories and the cuts commission of Labour at home. The SNP will fight strongly for our traditional industries such as farming and fishing. Scotland’s farming industry is substantially different from other parts of the UK – and only SNP MEPs are committed to fully fighting for the Scottish sector. Scotland’s farmers have lost out on millions of pounds worth of payments to which they should be entitled – and this is indicative of the London-based parties’ priorities lying elsewhere. On fisheries, the SNP has played a key role in shaping the recent reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. Nevertheless, whilst the new CFP provides a foundation for more decentralisation of decision-making, the precise power balance between Brussels and the fishing nations has still to be worked out. These decisions will form important work for the Parliament, and the Member States, in the new term – and the SNP will argue strongly for maximum powers to be returned to Scotland. The SNP opposes the isolationism of the UK on matters of cooperation in the areas of law and order. Tools such as the European Arrest Warrant have been hugely important in bringing criminals to justice in some of the most serious cases. The UK’s decision to withdraw from a raft of European justice measures has been driven by Eurosceptic ideology. In contrast, SNP MEPs will take decisions based on the interests of justice. And the SNP believes fundamentally that the wider interests of Scotland’s economy lie in being an integral part of the EU. Europe remains Scotland’s biggest overseas export market and it is essential that these vital links are fully retained. The European Parliament takes important decisions relating to the internal market – and so it is important that there are strong SNP voices there to ensure that Scotland’s industries are properly represented. The SNP’s vision of Scotland in Europe therefore contrasts starkly with that of the London-based parties. SNP MEPs will articulate a progressive message for the future of Scotland and, indeed, the wider EU. All of the London parties seem intent on attacking social cohesion – and all of them are being steered by isolationist, anti-EU forces. Only the SNP is committed to Scotland playing a full role in the EU – and only SNP MEPs will ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard. Whether it is on energy supply or employment, food-banks or farming, fisheries or funding, Scotland has been badly let down by Westminster politicians who would rather posture on Europe than fight Scotland’s corner. On issue after issue the SNP in Government and in the European Parliament has worked hard to secure the best deal for Scotland – only for Westminster to undermine our efforts time after time. Enough is enough and it’s long past time for Scotland to speak with our own strong voice in Europe – something that a vote for the SNP on 22 May and a Yes vote on 18 September will secure. A strong team of SNP MEPs and a Yes vote for an independent Scotland is the only way to guarantee that Scotland can make its mark in Europe, just like every other normal independent member state.
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