This time three years ago I wasn’t even remotely involved in politics. I wasn’t a member of a political party and couldn’t even name my local MP with absolute certainty, but so much has changed since then.
The unravelling catastrophe of Brexit was one of the reasons why I joined the SNP in early 2017; something which I did not expect to be doing, having voted against Scottish independence in 2014. With every single Scottish constituency having voted to remain in the European Union, it became apparent that Scotland was not only being ignored, but it was being side-lined as the Brexit process commenced. Most strikingly for me was the response from the Prime Minister when pressed on the matter, to which we were told that as the referendum was a ‘UK-wide vote’ and the UK voted to leave, Scotland would follow accordingly. An audacious thing to say, in my opinion, given that one of the flagship messages coming from the Better Together camp during the 2014 independence referendum was that a ‘Yes’ vote was a vote to remove our EU citizenship – one the main reasons why I did not do so. The disparity in the referendum result in Scotland, compared with other parts of the UK, was just another clear indicator (if there needed to be one) that the current political system is broken beyond repair.
But it’s not just the Scottish electorate who has been ignored since the start of this process, but the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government also. Theresa May still proceeded to force her EU Withdrawal Bill through Westminster, despite it lacking the consent of the Scottish Parliament. Furthermore, the Scottish Government even went as far as offering their own alternative Brexit plan, centred around continued membership of the single market and customs union, when Theresa May’s Chequers plan was rejected by the EU. Unsurprisingly, this went without any consideration.
For me, the European Union is more than just a political organisation. It provides us with the opportunity to live, work and study in any of our 27 neighbouring countries. It allows us to enjoy the common status of being a European citizen despite the fact we speak 24 different languages. Since the referendum we have seen the kind of hostile environment created for the EU citizens residing in the UK; the ending of freedom of movement has often been conveyed as an accomplishment of May’s negotiated deal. To add to this, EU citizens who have lived in the UK for decades are being forced to apply for ‘settled status’ simply to remain at home. Amidst the hostility of May’s newly so-called ‘Global Britain,’ the SNP have been consistent in their stance that the UK should remain in the European Union whilst acknowledging the value of EU citizens to our country. We saw just one example of this in April, when Nicola Sturgeon herself had written an open letter to all EU citizens living in Scotland, reaffirming that the country is their home and urging them to stay here following Brexit.
Of course, the SNP is not the only party in the UK advocating for remaining in the European Union. Likewise, they are not the only party fighting for a People’s Vote. But what the SNP does offer, which others do not, is the prospect of self-determination. When Theresa May acknowledged that her deal was dead in the water, it was up to the EU27 to decide whether or not to grant her some more time. Of those 27 EU nations, 12 of them are either similar in size or smaller than Scotland. Self-determination offers us the chance to have a seat at that table, to use our power as a small independent country, rather than being underrepresented and overshadowed by Westminster.
At this point in time in Scotland, we face the choice between being dragged out of the EU against our will or opting to map out our own destiny. While Nigel Farage’s populist Brexit Party climbs the polls to concerning levels, there is another way out for Scotland. It’s time to send a clear message to Westminster that Scotland wants to remain a part of the European family of nations, and we can send that message by voting SNP on May 23rd.
In the words of SNP MEP Alyn Smith in his address to the European Parliament, Europe: leave a light on, so we can find our way home.