Scotland in Europe Update 3rd November 2017

One of the most challenging aspects of the debate surrounding the UK’s vote to leave the EU is attempting to ascertain the facts. It is why I released the book Scotland in Europe (copies of which are available here: ). Events this week show the scale of the challenge we face.

Not only is there misinformation being deliberately promoted by the Brexiteers but the UK Government is also trying to hide the facts from the people.


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Scotland in Europe Update: 27th October 2017

As the UK government continues to contradict itself over Brexit I think the most important story is closer to home.

The National Records of Scotland have produced a series of projections for Scotland’s future population growth and the bottom line is simple and unsettling: if EU migration is stopped then the growth of Scotland’s population will slow significantly to the extent that our overall population will start to decline again within the next 25 years.

Crucially, all of Scotland’s projected population growth in the next 10 years is because of migration. Without EU migration the population of Scotland is projected to decline from 2032 onwards.

This would be disastrous for our economy and society. Scotland’s tragic history of exporting our own people has only recently started to be reversed, and it is vital we maintain an open attitude to migration, in and out, and our place in the world. You can read more here:

I realise this is very long term but these figures serve to illustrate that the damage from Brexit will not only be felt today, but for decades to come.

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Scotland in Europe Update 20th October 2017

No deal, no tariffs, here we go again… this bulletin feels a little like Groundhog Day (as does the whole UK Government Brexit ‘strategy’ at times) but once more I must re-iterate that the line ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ is madness.

An absolute ‘no deal’ means no planes in the sky, queues from London to Dover, and the stock-market in free fall. I still don’t think this is what the UK Government has in mind, although plenty of the Tory Brexiteers clearly do as David Davis’s statement to the Commons illustrated.

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Scotland in Europe Update 13th October 2017

I have had a busy week at SNP conference and I am proud to say that we will do all we can to reassure EU nationals in Scotland that you’re welcome here and you’re one of us. The First Minister has vowed that Scotland will pay any admin fees required by the UK Government for EU citizens to stay in the country after Brexit.

On the Monday, Joan McAlpine MSP and Michael Russell MSP joined me in squeezing into a packed room to launch Scotland IN Europe, a one-stop suite of meticulously researched and referenced resources available in print and online. Looking out at the hundreds of people listening intently to the discussion and asking pertinent, well-reasoned questions highlighted how seriously we’re taking Brexit and the EU.

If you want a copy you can download a pdf, or order a physical version from here:

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Scotland in Europe Update 6th October 2017

The Tories are fighting amongst themselves like ferrets in a sack, while the UK’s national interest, however we define it, is ignored by them utterly. Shame on them. It is not good enough for Scotland, it is not good enough for the EU either.  

I said this before the Prime Minister’s disastrous speech but it is even more true now. She faces the prospect of rebellion from her MPs. I don’t want to emphasise again how mad this is. In the face of the most complicated and time-sensitive negotiations the UK has conducted since the end of WWII, the Tories have wasted time on an election and now, even if May survives, they look set to waste even more time arguing about the leadership.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament debated the progress of the Brexit negotiations and passed a motion confirming that insufficient progress has been made to move on to the next stage in the discussions.

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Scotland in Europe Update 29th September 2017

After Brexit talks were postponed to allow the UK time to get its act together, some progress is reported in the latest round of UK-EU talks. The EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said there were still “big gaps” between the sides, but the key issue of citizens’ rights has at last seen some agreement. Reality is dawning for the Brexiteers.

Just this week, the US slapped a tariff duty of 219% on Bombardier - the aircraft manufacturer which employs 4000 people in Northern Ireland - leading Prime Minister Theresa May to appeal directly to President Trump to intervene and hinting that the UK will stop ordering US Boeing planes. That post-Brexit free trade deal with the US is looking weak and wobbly, as is the relationship between the Conservatives and the DUP.

I hope that this is the beginning of a frank discussion around Brexit. It’s not too late to reassess our place in Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the EU has to reinvent itself and “give Europe back to its citizens” so perhaps this rejuvenated EU and a referendum on the Brexit deal will meet at the crossroads:


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Scotland in Europe Update 22nd September 2017

Well. The Prime Minister’s speech in Florence today was underwhelming at best; where once we had ‘strong and stable’, now we have got ‘smooth and sensible’. What about ‘substance’?

May referred to more powers for Scotland but it's been clear for a while now that she intends to do the opposite. The Brexit half-truths continued as she repeatedly remarked that the UK would take back control of its borders, a false narrative given we have never been part of the Schengen area. The expectation that Brexit will be done and dusted within a two-year transition period is ambitious indeed. 

The full text of the speech is available here:

“The UK never felt truly at home in the EU” said Mrs May. I disagree. Despite decades of misinformation, a Eurosceptic or disinterested media, and a mostly lacklustre Remain campaign, Scotland voted to Remain in the EU. It’s crucial that we remember that.

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Scotland in Europe Update 15th September 2017

So, there it is. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill has been agreed in principle by the House of Commons and now moves on to the detailed consideration in the Commons and the Lords. This is despite a clear majority of Scots rejecting Brexit across every local authority in the land, and an even clearer majority of Scotland’s representatives in Westminster rejecting it too.

While I think Scotland can do better independent, I don’t want to see the UK have a bad time. The Bill approved in the early hours of Tuesday morning is offensive to me in almost every possible way.


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Scotland in Europe Update 8th September 2017

This week the European Parliament got back to business after the summer recess and set about assessing what had been, or rather hadn’t been, achieved in the negotiations that had taken place over the summer. President Tajani’s comments say it all:

"Given the current state of play of negotiations and the current position of the UK, it would seem very difficult that sufficient progress can be achieved by October on separation issues in order to enter phase 2 of the negotiations. In this case I would think it wise for the European Council to postpone this point to its December meeting."

Brexit is not inevitable, not when the people supposedly in charge of it don’t know what they want, those opposed to it can’t agree on an alternative and we in Scotland don’t want it at all and voted clearly and decisively to reject it.

I’m in a luckier position than many MEPs in that my constituency, the whole of Scotland, voted to remain in every counting region, from Shetland to Stranraer. My instructions are to keep us in

So I’ll repeat here what I’ve already promised myself, my team, and the public: I will not be complicit in an act of national self-harm, especially one that is so demonstrably against the interest of the people I serve. EU membership is best for Scotland. Let’s not be browbeaten into acquiescence.


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Scotland in Europe update 1st September 2017

So, that was the third round of negotiations. I must admit, even I thought this was the week when the UK would get serious. In reality, nothing has happened. As Michel Barnier, the lead EU negotiator, said at the end of the week “we made no decisive progress on the main subjects”.

The situation is rapidly becoming a farce. From the very beginning the EU has made clear that citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border come first, and then talk of trade deals will follow.

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