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Alyn Smith MEP: Why Scotland is better off in the EU

Guest Blogger, 18 April 2016

For many on the leave side of the EU debate, the principle of the free movement of people across the continent is resented and hated. However, this is not something to view as a threat but something to embrace. Freedom of movement is a two way street. It opens up opportunities for Scots, but EU immigrants coming to Scotland have been a huge boost to Scotland too. Immigration from the EU is not something to be condemned or hidden, it should be celebrated for the boost to our communities and economy that it is. And to this day, Scots continue to take advantage of the single most visible benefit of the EU: the right to travel, work, or retire anywhere in the EU, from the Algarve to the Arctic Circle, from Stornoway to Cyprus. No Scottish citizen needs a visa to travel and there are no impediments to working in any country you choose. It is only fair that we extend that right to other EU citizens.

Choosing to leave the EU over the question of immigration would be a clear mistake: EU nationals put in far more to our economy than they “take” from it. In fact, they contribute £55 to the UK coffers every second. EU citizens living in the UK contributed a net of £20 billion between 2001 and 2011. That’s 150% of the Scottish NHS’ annual budget.

As summer approaches, you might be considering a trip to Europe, and you may well be taking advantage of some of the benefits that the EU provides you with. Mobile roaming charges are now regulated, cutting the cost of calling home. If we get into trouble abroad, we can go to the embassy of any EU country and get help. Should your flight be delayed, you could be entitled to compensation worth hundreds of pounds thanks to EU laws. If you have limited mobility, you are entitled to free assistance within any EU airport. Plus, in the unfortunate circumstance you fall ill while you’re away, your health card will get you public health care in the same way you would in Scotland. You won’t need to worry about the messiness of visas and permits either – you can travel freely across member states. This cuts down on time waiting in queues at airports or docks, and shows how cooperative member states have become thanks to the EU.

Whilst Scotland is more pro-EU than our neighbours in England and Wales, it is the UK-wide result which will determine our future in Europe. A vote to leave across the UK means we leave, regardless of the Scottish national vote.

Turnout could be what decides this race. As we saw in the 2014 European elections, UKIP thrives on low turnout, and we don’t want to lose this one to UKIP.

We need to get away from the mess that is Project Fear 2.0 and cut through rhetoric with facts. It is time to speak unashamedly about why we want to stay in the EU. We only have a few months to revitalise the debate and transform it into something that is actually helpful to voters. It has become the norm to dislike the EU, and with little grounding in fact.

Of course it could be improved, as could so many things, but the European Union is not a threat. It is a powerful symbol of international relations and democracy. It allows us to interact with our neighbours as equals, whilst generating jobs and changing the lives of all Scots for the better.

I will continue to argue that the EU is a remarkable organisation which has created opportunities for everyone in Scotland – be it directly through business and trade or travel, or indirectly through research grants and other funds.

The European Union is an important community of nations of which we are a proud, progressive part. I would ask that if you agree that it is best for Scotland that we remain in the EU, that you say so loudly. Together, we can win this, and continue to succeed hand-in-hand with our European partners.

Alyn Smith is a SNP MEP for Scotland and has been since 2004. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website here. 

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