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Scotland must not be dragged out of the EU against its will

Submitted by on 21 Apr 2015 – 10:28

As calls for a referendum on EU membership grow louder in the run-up to the UK General Election, Humza Yousaf MSP from the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) argues the case for Scotland’s place in the EU.

Photo: Humza Yousaf, Flickr

Photo: Humza Yousaf, Flickr

Scotland has been an integral part of the European Union for the past 40 years and we want to remain an enthusiastic, engaged and committed contributor to European progress. The SNP wants Scotland to continue being a constructive member and have her voice heard on the international stage.

Membership of the EU provides the best international framework within which Scotland can make economic and social gains. It gives us access to 500 million citizens and around 20 million businesses that operate in the EU single market. The European Union is the world’s largest economy and trading area, capable of competing with the most advanced economies in the world. Scotland exports nearly £13 billion of goods and services to Europe a year, and 330,000 Scottish jobs are associated with exports to the EU. However, we recognise that the EU is much more than a simple free trade association. The EU is based on the principles of strengthening peace, security, justice and prosperity. From protecting the welfare of its citizens to promoting gender equality, our membership of the EU must also be a way to create a more equal and inclusive society.

However, all that is being put at risk by David Cameron’s threat of an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The SNP has been very clear that Scotland must not be dragged out of the EU against her will. We do not support the Conservative proposals for such a referendum as it puts Scotland’s place in Europe in grave danger. Our EU membership brings huge benefits to Scotland and it is vital that it continues.

Polls consistently show that people in Scotland want to continue working in partnership with our friends and allies in the EU. In fact, support for Scotland to remain in the EU is now 19 points higher than it was two years ago and that support for the EU is considerably higher in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. However, it is entirely possible that the UK as a whole could vote to exit the EU, but that Scotland would vote to stay. That leaves open the very real possibility that Scotland could be taken out of the EU against our wishes which would be democratically indefensible.

That’s why we think that for the UK to leave the EU it should require a ‘double majority’. This would mean that the decision to leave the UK would need not only a majority across the UK but a majority in each constituent part of the UK too. This will give proper protection against any of the nations of the UK being removed from the EU against their will and puts into practice what Westminster leaders told us during the referendum campaign – that the UK is a family of nations, with each member of the family enjoying equal status. Our proposal transforms the terms of the UK debate on Europe which, so far, has been all about the Westminster parties dancing to UKIP’s tune. It also has widespread support in Scotland with 60% saying that withdrawal from the EU should require four “out” votes, according to a recent Survation poll.

Glasgow  Photo: Robert Brown

Photo: Robert Brown

We don’t think the EU is perfect. It badly needs change and reform. But we do believe – strongly – that our interests are best served by being in, not out, of the EU. We know that the EU institutions have grown distant from their citizens and they must reconnect and that we need to do things in the EU better and smarter. We do not believe that there is a need for treaty change to make these reforms happen. The UK Government’s Balance of Competencies Review did not make a compelling case for Treaty change so this is about how we do things better. We can reform the EU from within and the SNP will not wait for an in/out referendum to put the positive case for Europe on the table.

We do, however, share the genuine concerns of people in Scotland regarding the impact  Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could have on Scotland’s public services. We believe that there should be an explicit exemption for the NHS on the face of the agreement – and if there is not then the Prime Minister should veto the agreement. We are clear that any potential economic benefits from TTIP cannot be at the expense of publicly funded services like the NHS, or the right of Governments to regulate.

Scotland has benefited socially, culturally and economically from EU membership over the past 40 years and it is vital that this is not put at risk by being dragged out of the EU against our will. By being a productive EU member we will be able to make sure Scotland’s voice is heard – the SNP will continue to make the case for Scotland’s EU membership.


Humza Yousaf  is an SNP MSP for Glasgow, and Minister for External Affairs and International Development.


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