Mona Siddiqui: Support for staying in EU growing by the day

Prime Minister David Cameron and former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman  visit an Asda branch in London for the Remain campaign. Picture: Jack Taylor/PA Wire
Prime Minister David Cameron and former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman visit an Asda branch in London for the Remain campaign. Picture: Jack Taylor/PA Wire
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IN the first of our series of key voices in the debate over Scotland’s future, Professor Mona Siddiqui presents the case for staying within the EU

As Chair of the Scotland Stronger In Europe advisory group, I have been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm that volunteers from across the country, from Orkney to Dumfries, have shown in taking the case for staying in the EU to the streets and communities of Scotland.

Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech on the economic impact of the UK leaving the European Union at B&Q headquarters in Chandler's Ford, Hampshire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2016. See PA story POLITICS EU. Photo credit should read: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech on the economic impact of the UK leaving the European Union at B&Q headquarters in Chandler's Ford, Hampshire. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday May 23, 2016. See PA story POLITICS EU. Photo credit should read: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

As we enter the formal period of the campaign, interest in the European question has definitely grown and that can only be a good thing.

Our campaign is different from previous referendums in Scotland, and different from the Stronger In campaign in the rest of the UK.

READ MORE: Support for Remain strengthening in Scotland, new poll shows

It doesn’t include political parties, and instead we are looking to connect with people in their own communities, workplaces, trade unions, and civic organisations across Scotland. This month’s endorsement for staying in Europe from the Scottish Council Development and Industry, for example – whose membership spans every sector and part of Scotland’s economy – is extremely welcome. We have also had the support of over two-thirds of members of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce who responded to their survey, and backing from the Scottish Trades Union Congress and a host of individual unions.

The case for remaining in the EU is becoming clearer each day, but for me Europe means something far more than economic prosperity

MONA SIDDIQUI

We have overwhelming support across the main political parties in Scotland, including from all their leaders. Only a very small number of all our elected parliamentarians backs Brexit, with just two MSPs turning up to a Leave event outside the Scottish Parliament last week.

READ MORE: Joyce McMillan: It’s Groundhog Day all over again with Brexit

In the independence referendum in 2014, both the Yes and No sides prioritised the importance of being in the European Union, and I believe that is an important common denominator in this campaign.

Referendums by their very nature tend to be divisive affairs – and no doubt this one will be elsewhere in the UK. But in Scotland there is an opportunity for people to come together across other political divides – without sacrificing these differences - and unite to protect our place in Europe.

The referendum looks like it could be extremely close UK-wide, and that is why we have put all of our supporters on alert that the votes of people in Scotland could make the difference in achieving a Remain result across the UK.

By definition, our campaign is focused on Scotland, but only to the extent that it contributes to achieving a UK-wide Remain vote. Pundits and political parties will no doubt be interested in how Scotland votes relative to the rest of the UK, and all the ramifications of that. But in this referendum there is only one result on 23 June – and that is whether we stay in the European Union or leave it.

The polls in Scotland suggest a very large potential Remain vote – stretching across the political spectrum and bridging both sides of the independence debate – and the turnout may also be higher in Scotland than south of the border. We are taking nothing for granted, the argument must be won in Scotland as elsewhere in the UK, but the potentially decisive impact of Scottish votes is one factor that we believe will mobilise people to back our positive campaign and vote ‘Remain’.

The economic case to stay in Europe and have full, guaranteed access to the single market is compelling. But the European Union also means a legacy of stability and security as well as prosperity.

The European Union has been and remains a force for good in our continent and the wider world.

Europe means different things to different people across Scotland, and we should be passionate about how important it is to vote on 23 June.

A vote to Remain, whether it be for economic, social protection or environmental reasons - or for strengthening our alliances with our closest neighbours - is a vote for hope for future generations.

We must not be complacent or apathetic - Europe matters.

The economic case for remaining in the EU is becoming clearer each day, but for me Europe means something far more than economic prosperity.

Prosperity relies on peaceful societies, on peaceful alliances, on countries which share similar values and ideals about human flourishing and human dignity.

Of course is Europe not perfect – no-one on the Remain side claims that. But as we look around the world where there are so many conflicts - a world of vested interests - the solidarity that we enjoy in Europe, the ability to make a difference when we come together, this should never be taken for granted.

For this who wish to leave the EU, immigration and security are often identified as reasons for leaving. We are told we should take back our borders. But we already have control of our borders, and immigration from non-EU countries is often a consequence of conflict that we alongside out European neighbours have a moral duty to resolve.

What happens in the caves of Yemen, or the squares of Cairo, or in the desolation of Syria, affects the streets of London and the boulevards of Paris - we cannot and we should not run away from the global problems.

The UK in Europe has an opportunity to show courage and moral leadership to the rest of the world.

For me, the European Union is not only the world’s biggest trade bloc, it is also about building strong connections with our neighbours. And Europe isn’t ‘somewhere else’ doing things to us. We are Europe, benefiting and contributing in kind.

The Scotsman EU Referendum page: Keep up to date with latest news, polls and features.

Of course there are many economic and practical benefits of being in the EU, and we can only keep and protect these gains by voting to stay.

Automatic and unfettered access to the single European market is vital for jobs and investment in Scotland, and no option other than EU membership gives us that.

The Leave side seem to be abandoning the single market, but even if we were to negotiate access from outside it would come at a cost.

Walking away from Europe would leave vital Scottish industries such as financial services, farming and fishing dependent on rules to access the single market for their products which we would have absolutely no say in deciding, but would still have to pay for. Common sense dictates that we couldn’t have the same equality of access to the single market outside Europe as we do inside, which could only be bad for Scotland’s export-oriented economy.

The benefits of being in Europe touch all parts of Scottish society – rights for families such as maternity and paternity leave, protection for workers including paid holiday leave, freedoms for older people such as pension rights across EU countries, and opportunities for young people.

Being in Europe also means that Scots can get access to healthcare and social services at no extra cost right across the EU. That benefits everyone, particularly those who need care the most.

The Leave side inflate the costs, but for every £1 we put into the EU, we get almost £10 back through increased trade, investment, jobs, growth and lower prices. And there are very specific benefits – being in Europe means that we get lower prices in the shops, because it’s cheaper to trade and there is more competition and choice. EU action is making it cheaper to use your mobile phone abroad – abolishing roaming charges – and driving down the cost of flights.

On a practical level, bodies such as Europol and its justice equivalent, Eurojust, coordinate intelligence sharing and prosecutions across the EU. The European Arrest Warrant brings terrorists and other criminals back to face justice across EU boundaries – including one of the 21/7 bombing gang in London in 2005, who had fled to Italy. And the Schengen Information System, which the UK has now signed up to, enables the sharing of information about some 40,000 wanted criminals and missing persons in the EU.

Action at European level has cleaned up Scotland’s waterways and beaches. And as Scotland’s former Chief Medical Officer, Professor Harry Burns, has pointed out, EU measures on air and water quality help us to improve the health of people in this country.

Of course the EU isn’t perfect, and there are aspects of it we don’t like. But the gains of being in clearly outweigh the costs, and it is better to work for change from within rather than have to sign up to the rules of access from outside having thrown our voice away.

Since the 1990s, we have all been European as well as nation-state citizens, and I believe that the positive case lies with keeping our European citizenship.

Like many, I am from a generation that has enjoyed the best of Europe.

A vote to stay ‘In’ will ensure that the next generation continues to build on all that Europe has to offer.

NEXT UP: The case for Brexit by Tom Harris, director of Vote Leave in Scotland

• Professor Mona Siddiqui is chairwoman of the Scotland Stronger In Europe Advisory Group

FACT BOX

• 250,000 Scottish jobs are linked to our trade with the EU, as our businesses have full access to the single European market of 500 million people.

• Vital workers’ rights such as paid holidays are protected by the EU.

• The EU protects women’s rights in the workplace, including anti-discrimination and equal pay laws.

• EU action is making it cheaper to use your phone abroad, and driving down the cost of flights by 40 per cent.

• The European Arrest Warrant makes Scotland safer, as we can arrest and deport criminals across the EU.

• The EU Rural Development Fund will see Scotland receive more than £33 million over the next five years.