"If you are sick and fed up of the corrosive and cynical world of Westminster, then next year we can be rid of all that. Vote Yes and we can say enough to the remote House of Commons and the ridiculous House of Lords. Enough of the war-mongers and the job-cutters; enough of the asset-strippers and mortgage-flippers; enough of the welfare-bashers and the bedroom-taxers. Let's be done with them. Let's make our own decisions and live by our own values. It's time to speak up for Scotland. It's time to stand up for Scotland. It's time to vote Yes."

So said Yes Scotland Chief Executive Blair Jenkins, who earned a resounding standing ovation, speaking at an Independence Referendum Rally following the SNP Annual Conference in Perth. Mr Jenkins kicked off the rally by reminding us that the key to winning next September's referendum lies in the grass-roots campaign, in every city, town, village, and community the length and breadth of Scotland.

Although the main political event of 2014 is undoubtedly the massive opportunity presented to Scotland by the referendum vote on September 18th, let us not forget that we will have two opportunities to vote next year.

The five-yearly elections to the European Parliament will be on 22nd May. The SNP has selected and ranked six excellent candidates, each of whom would be a very fine representative of Scotland's interests in Europe.

We have a clear target. The SNP seeks to win more votes than any other Party across Scotland in the EP elections. Last time around, in 2009, we did exactly that and in the process came very, very close to increasing our number of SNP MEPs.
Next year, while Scotland is electing the six MEPs which the UK Government has allocated to us, member states of our size will be electing thirteen. After next year's European elections each of the 28 member states will nominate their candidate for Commissioner. Each of the 28 governments will have a say in the complex negotiations leading up to the appointment of President of the Commission, and the allocation of individual portfolios to the Commissioners.

And, of course, normal independent member states will continue to sit at the top table, influencing the development of the EU while strongly representing their own key interests.

With devolution meanwhile, Scotland is detached from the inter-governmental process - routinely finding our Ministers prevented from speaking at Council meetings, as happened most recently to Richard Lochhead MSP at an Agriculture and Fisheries Council.
2014 is a year of historic opportunity for Scotland. We can choose to transform our EU membership experience by voting Yes to Independence in the Referendum. There is no doubt in my mind that, within a short period as a normal nation in Europe, we would find our vital interests being served much better.

Let's make sure in 2014 that we win the European elections and maximise the number of SNP MEPs elected, and campaign with all of our energy and determination in support of a Yes to Independence.

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