Sarah-Beattie-Smith, Green Party co-convenor, 12.5.14
This year is about all of us deciding what kind of Scotland we want to live in, what kind of Scotland we want to build and the message we want to send to the rest of the world. In that respect, I think there's a clear and important connection between the European election and the referendum.
Don't get me wrong, I know European elections don't always ignite the flames of passion in most people - not even in hardened campaigners like all of you. But this one is important, and I'll tell you why.
Every European election has a story - in 2009 it was the elections scandal, in 2004 it was Kilroy. In 2014 it's UKIP, whether we like it or not. The whole UK media is intent on giving Farage and his fruitcakes as much airtime as they want. This is a UKIP election. So of course the story here, if we allow them in, is that Scotland's not that different - we elect racists and homophobes just like England so what's all this independence nonsense we keep banging on about? We can't afford that. Not now, not ever, and especially not when we're trying to build a new nation.
This year we have the chance to elect not only Scotland's first Green MEP, but a woman who shares our beliefs and who will fight for a just and welcoming Scotland.
And I think the campaign we're running fits really well with a lot of what RIC is campaigning on this year. We have three main pillars to our campaign -
a just economy where public services are in public hands and where we attack poverty, not the poor;
a welcoming Scotland which is grateful for the people who come to Scotland and choose to make it their home and doesn't blame them for the troubles caused by elites;
and for a nation of peace which rejects Cold War relics like NATO, stands against the militarisation of Europe and gets rid of trident - not just by shifting it somewhere else but by disarming it for good.
Who wins sends a message about what kind of country we want. By electing Maggie Chapman as our MEP, we are choosing a just economy, where we attack poverty, not the poor, and defend our public services from the relentless drive to privatise. We are choosing a welcoming Scotland, where people who want to be part of building our nation are treated as comrades, not criminals. We are choosing a nation of peace, not the NATO nuclear alliance.
All of that is the starkest possible contrast with the vile rhetoric peddled by UKIP..
We stand a real chance, for the first time, of electing a socialist, feminist, pro-immigration, pro-independence candidate who stands for everything that this campaign believes. We have a chance to set the tone for the whole summer and beyond. Let me be clear - if there's no change at this election, then we're sending a signal that we don't really need change as a nation.
So I hope you'll vote Green next Thursday. And if I can make a cheeky plea, I hope you'll keep helping us to get out the vote and reach even more people.
John asked who the Green Euro-candidates were and what type of election it was?
Sarah replied, that they were Maggie Chapman, Edinburgh councilor, Chas Booth, Grace Murray, Green worker in European parliament, Alistair Whitelaw, Glasgow and Ann Thomas, Highlands.
Mike came in and said that there were 6 Scottish Euro-seats ( a reduction of 1 after boundary changes) and that they were elected o the basis of proportional representation, after voters had given their single vote to the party of their choice.
Bob said that as a socialist he agreed that Maggie should be given a tactical vote in the Euro-election.
Irene said she was quite keen on Europe. When she had been in Brussels she had first heard of the debate over fracking, which she found informative.
Andy asked what the Greens had organised in the run-up to the election on May 24th. He also asked how Scottish independence would effect Scotland;s position in the EU.
Mike said that people could help in canvassing on Sunday, 18th May, meeting at Haymarket at 2.00 pm, and again on Tuesday, 20th May, meeting at the Tron pub at 6.00 pm. There was also a Facebook event organised.
He said that Denmark, which currently has approximately the same population as Scotland has 13 seats in the Euro-parliament compared to Scotland’s 6. However, he was critical of the EU set-up, which was dominated by appointed Commissioners from each of the member countries, He thought that there should be elected Commissioners. Mike also thought that unlike the Tories at present, representatives from an independent Scotland would be likely to support the proposed Robin Hood Tax on international financial transactions, and not block the proposed limits on bankers’ bonuses.
Donny said that he also supported Maggie Chapman. However, he had a more critical attitude towards the EU. The EU leaders had been responsible for imposing horrific austerity measures on Ireland, Greece, Italy and Spain. The City of London opposed the EU because it doesn’t like the prospect of greater financial regulation, whilst the CBI wants to overthrow the limited social and other rights that still exist under the EU. But both the EU and UK want to impose austerity on workers.
Allan thought it was important to discuss the way that RIC operated with regard to participating political parties, RIC is a wider movement that includes people from an anti-party, non-party, anarchist and movementist backgrounds. It would not be appropriate for Edinburgh RIC to give specific backing to Green or to other parties. However, it was perfectly in order for RIC to host discussions like today’s. Edinburgh RIC had a particularly good record of encouraging wider political debate.
He said that RIC members participating in the EU-election campaign should be aware that there was another group, claiming to be socialist, which was putting forward candidates – No2EU. However, he argued that they were not mounting an internationalist campaign. Allan, as an SSP member, had participated in the 2009 Euro-election campaign. The SSP was part of the internationals European Anti-Capitalist Alliance and brought a French car worker across as part of its campaign. No2EU, however, is a purely British national campaign, and comes across as UKIP-Lite for the working class. Allan said that he would be supporting Maggie Chapman in the Euro-election.
Mike said that No2EU had also come under attack when it stood its own candidates against well-placed Green candidates in Lancashire in the 2009 Euro-elections. This had helped the BNP win a North West England seat.
He argued that the EU had a positive element of pan-Europeanism and socialists should not be arguing for pulling out of the EU. There was also an inconsistency between those Tory Right and UKIP supporters in Scotland, that wanted independence for Europe but not for Scotland.
Bob said that if you are staying in then you must have a strategy to democratise the EU. Its structures were eve more undemocratic than Westminster. It was important to wrest powers from the bureaucracy. To do this we needed more international links.
Iain said that we would have to discuss Europe more fully after the election,
Sarah agreed with the principle of an elected Commissioner. UKIP are having some impact in Scotland, as she discovered when canvassing. They are attracting an anti-system protest vote.
Talat said that the pan-nationalism of the EU looked very different form a Third World perspective. It is the pan-nationalism of a European elite. The EU represented a continuation of European imperialism with regard to much of Africa. The EU had imposed structural adjustment programs upon the Third World, which preceded its current austerity programme in Greece. Racism is growing in Europe in response to the economic crisis and far right and fascist parties are rising on that basis.
She also argued that we should oppose the No2EU approach as well as Fortress Europe with its immigration controls and anti-refugee policies.
Andy asked what the Green policy was with regard to refugees and asylum seekers, and particularly with regard to Dungavel detention centre.
Sarah said the Greens are against the vilification of refugees and asylum seekers, and certainly support the losing down of Dungavel. The UK is the main enemy when it comes to its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and also its restrictions on overseas students.
Mike said that the Greens were ultimately for a world with no borders. When he had suggested automatic citizenship for migrants after 5 years at a Scottish Green conference, he had been opposed by someone wanting to lower that to 2 years, which gave some indication of the nature of the debate amongst the Greens.
Vincent argued with a strong note of caution. He said that in his experience in working class Muirhouse and Pilton, racism was not confined to Scottish-born residents, where it did have quite an impact. He found that Poles, in particular, expressed racist views, particularly towards Africans.
Sarah said this was an understandable response when you were treated badly with regard to jobs, housing, schools and health care, and felt powerless. You take it out on others.
Talat said that this is what the scapegoating of others tries to do. People of one particular group start to blame others, rather than focusing on the real cause of their problems. This is the language, not only of UKIP and the Tories, but increasingly of Labour too. Farage and UKOP are currently calling the shots, which is why they need to be opposed.
Sean said there were contradictory feelings involved. He had been canvassing Niddrie Mains Road, and came to a house with a mixed partnership. The Scottish husband supported a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum, whilst his Indian partner supported a ‘No’ vote. He thought it was necessary to look to other countries to see how they approached the migration issue.
Sarah said that one particular prejudice was directed against migrants begging in the streets. It was not widely appreciated that asylum seekers tare not allowed to work.
Andy said that it was important that we could relate to people who are low paid, and are experiencing benefit cuts. Not all socialists were able to do this well.
Amie was encouraged by the fact that RIC was developing as a grass roots campaign.
Vince provided the example of he North Edinburgh Fights Back as a vibrant local working class campaign.
Pat said that in her experience she often found people who were quite rightly angry, but hit out at the wrong targets. It is possible to turn around such attitudes through argument. She said that pointing to people who make the real decisions affecting people’s lives, they could be won over.
She also said that although the official platform adopted by UKIP is not specifically racist, but UKIP attracts racists and fascists. She argued that it was important to give help to Maggie and the Greens’ campaign. A UKIP MEP in Scotland would represent a setback for the independence movement.
Donny said that UKIP is a racist party, which draws most of its support form the middle class. It is also gaining from the massive exposure it is getting in the media. A vote for independence is a vote against the British state.
Iain though that the best recent analysis of UKIP was an article in New Statesman Welcome to Militant England by Rafael Behr (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/04/welcome-militant-england)
THE AFTERMATH OF THE EURO-ELECTION AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
General Discussion (following from previous RIC branch meeting on the 12.5.14 and election on 22.5.14)
Pat said there had been a move to the Right across Europe. This reflects a failure of the Left. However, in Greece the socialist Syriza had emerged as the top party. In Britain although right wing UKIP had topped the poll, the fascist BNP had lost both its MSPs.
Iain said that UKIP in Scotland had been massively helped by all the publicity it received from the BBC. UKIP had also repeated a couple of simple messages – anti-immigration, anti-EU.
Pete said there had been a division between the results in those countries in northern Europe which had not been at the receiving end of the Troika imposed austerity measures and those in the south which had. In northern Europe there had been a move to the Right, whilst in southern Europe – Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy - there had been a move to the Left.
Pete also said that we were just at the beginning of a long struggle which began back in 2007-8. This would take longer to have an impact in Scotland. From his canvassing experience for the Greens, the EU election was of little interest to people in Scotland until the last two weeks of the election.
The SNP leadership had reacted to the rise of UKIP by claiming only by voting SNP could you keep out UKIP. This had an effect on the Green vote.
Allan said that you had to look at the impact of UKIP from an all-UK perspective. The emergence of right populist and neo-fascist parties reflects a growing concern about the future of the UK state, in a period of on-going economic and social crisis. The Right, however, understand this better than the Left. Only the BNP, Britain First the Conservatives and UKIP pursue an all-UK strategy. In the Euro-elections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, UKIP emerged as the largest pro-unionist party amongst these all-UK forces. This will push Better Together even further Right.
Although UKIP is predominantly a right wing English nationalist party, it has been able to extend its influence into Scotland, England and Wales by championing all the worst aspects of British nationalism – generalised British chauvinist anti-immigration and anti-European sentiment; homophobia and misogyny amongst considerable sections of the population; Orangeism, loyalism and anti-Irish racism in Northern Ireland and Scotland; and anti-Welsh language sentiment in Wales. Much of this draws its sustenance from the very nature of the UK state, with its unionist and anti-democratic set-up. This state perpetuates the rule of the British ruling class, especially the City of London with its ability to impose austerity and bloated arms expenditure through all the mainstream parties. The imperial and unionist nature of the UK encourages war mongering, racism, chauvinism and national divide-and-rule politics. Having an established religion, represented in the House of Lords gives official encouragement to wider reactionary attitudes to women and gays.
The Greens have tried to counter this with some limited effect. It was good to see Maggie Chapman and the Greens beating UKIP in Edinburgh*, especially after being prominent in the anti-Farage demo.
Those socialists behind No2EU/Yes to Democracy had only stood in British constituencies (not the whole of the UK, and certainly not elsewhere in the EU), hardly an expression of internationalism. Furthermore, they gave the impression that there was something worthwhile to defend in ‘British democracy’, ignoring the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the UK state. To counter this insularity, RIC should see its campaign for Scottish independence as part of a wider all-islands ‘internationalism from below’ campaign, bringing in England, Wales and the whole of Ireland.
(* The Greens also beat UKIP in Glasgow, Stirling, Orkney and Shetland.)
Gary said that Maggie Chapman had run an exemplary campaign for the Greens in Edinburgh. He would like to publicly give thanks to Maggie for this.
Sean said the right wing media dominated. UKIP got four times more coverage than the SNP. The Greens were ignored. We must develop our own ways of promoting our message to counter this.
Iain said that people have still not come to terms with the degree the Right wing establishment now controls the BBC.
The independence campaign had had some effect on voter participation in the EU elections. It had only increased by 1% in England, but by 5% in Scotland. Although the Tories had also increased their vote, the SNP had held its position, despite being the incumbent Scottish government for 7 years.
Mike said there had been a lot of complacency. Quite a lot of people had thought that UKIP was a south of the border phenomenon and would not be able to win a seat in Scotland. Labour’s response is constantly to appease UKIP. They could well take up UKIP’s call for an EU referendum, which would only play into UKIP’s hands.
Anne said that a lot of people vote UKIP because they felt excluded from politics. All the mainstream parties appeared the same. In contrast, Farage is a populist who can speak to the people.
Pete said that there is no great pro- or anti-Euro feeling in Scotland. He had been to a European hustings in Glasgow. Only 7 people turned up. The next night 250 people attended an independence meeting.
RIC must be involved in a grassroots campaign. We face a series of fights, and not just over independence.
UKIP’s new Scottish MEP, David Cockburn, is an idiot. He said he would abolish all the EU regulations. When asked which he would start with, he couldn’t name one! It should be relatively easy to expose his politics.
Stuart said that the significance of the UKIP vote in Scotland is overstated. However, after all the Better Together talk about independence threatening EU membership, it is clear that the main threat lies at UK level if there is a ‘No’ vote. The ugly face of nationalism is British nationalism. There is now a threat of a Tory/UKIP pact.
Luke said that the EU election was a passing event. Many more people were interested and involved in the Scottish independence campaign. We had to concentrate on this.
Annie said there was an obvious contradiction between UKIP calling for British independence, whilst denying independence for Scotland.
Mike said that UKIP are just one in a long list of unionist parries that needed to be countered.
Iain said that Johann Lamont had called for a union of progressives to counter the nationalism of the SNP and UKIP. Presumably that would be the ‘progressive’ Tory party and their Lib-Dem allies!