Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Before You Vote.......

European Parliament Elections - June 4 2009


During April and May 2009 the Centre for Scottish Public Policy (CSPP), the European Movement and the Hansard Society embarked on an educational project around Scotland that was motivated by the lack of coverage and predicted low electoral turnout in the European Parliament elections taking place on the 4th June 2009.

Extending from Aberdeen to Melrose, it raised awareness of what the European Parliament (EP) does and the impending elections, while giving you the unique opportunity to hear from and scrutinise prospective and existing MEPs.

What follows is a brief overview of the six parties that were involved: their manifestos and their candidates.

Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party

Struan Stevenson and John Purvis CBE are the current MEPs though the latter has recently retired. Mr. Stevenson is number one on the list. The others are: Belinda Don, Helen Gardner, Donald MacDonald, Gerald Michaluk and PJ Lewis. All Conservative MEPs have agreed to leave the main centre-right grouping in the EP, the European People’s Party (EPP), after the election and form a new group.

The manifesto’s clarion call is a ‘vote for change’. A key aspect of this change is rejecting the Lisbon Treaty, the ‘only major party supporting a referendum on the constitution’. In rejecting further ‘central control from Brussels’, they will ‘not take Britain into the euro’ and ‘return social and employment legislation to British national control’. The latter point was emphasised by Mr Stevenson MEP at our hustings in relation to the Working Times Directive.

Like the vast majority of parties they proclaim that ‘tackling climate change is a central priority for the EU’ while also stating the need to reform the Common Fisheries Policy. Click here for their election broadcast.

In regards to their achievements (see manifesto p6-9), they include: introducing the EU Small Business Act; ‘secured early agreement’ in the EP to cut carbon emissions by 20% by 2020; introduced the ‘most far reaching rules on transparency on MEPs expenses of any UK political parry’; and dismantled trade barriers between the EU and the U.S. by taking a ‘leading role in the Transatlantic Economic Council’.

Scottish Green Party

Presently the Greens have no MEPs. Elaine Morrison is number one on the list and is joined by: Chas Booth; Kirsten Robb; Alastair Whitelaw; Ruth Dawkins; and Peter McColl. They are members of the European Green Party, the fifth largest group in the EP with 43 MEPs.

Under the banner of ‘let’s reclaim our economy [and our] communities’, the manifesto asserts that now is the time to ‘choose a new sort of politics’. This means delivering on ‘high-skilled, well paid green jobs to develop the infrastructure of the future’ and create a ‘green new deal for Europe’.

Like other parties the economic turbulence has largely framed their manifesto and thus they call for a new sustainable economic model. This will include: EU & global ‘regulation of big banks’; create a ‘European living wage’; keeping ‘public services public’; and Introduce ‘corporate transparency requirements similar to Freedom of Information laws’.

The Greens also put a considerable amount of attention on ‘a responsible EU’, centred on the notion of implementing ‘fair trade rules’ in a new era of fairer globalisation, one that strengthens the voice ‘developing countries’ in global governance.

Lastly, and heavily emphasised by Ms Morrison at our event, was the need to ‘reclaim our environment’. No ‘longer can governments chase the dream of everlasting economic growth’. To combat climate change they will: ensure that strongest deal is made at Copenhagen summit; campaign for ‘laws requiring EU companies to account for all of their carbon pollution’; and protect local fisheries ban GM crops.

Scottish Labour

David Martin and Catherine Stihler are the current MEPs. Mary Lockhart, Paul McAleavey, Kirsty Connell and Nasim Khan complete the list. They are part of the European Socialist group (PES) which has 214 MEPs in the EP. Click here for their election broadcast.

The manifesto is driven by the ‘pledge to fight for jobs’ and create a ‘better future’. Like other parties the narrative focused extensively on the financial crisis and the action needed ‘to create jobs and build a stronger, fairer and safer country’. In this light ‘our membership of the EU is more important than ever’.

There was a strong emphasis on the cross-border problems Scotland faces (climate change, global recession, terrorism etc) and the need for coordinated action, a theme echoed by David Martin at our events. ‘There are no Scotland only solutions’. Indeed, the manifesto highlighted the importance of tackling climate change and ‘building a low carbon society’. Mr Martin stated that the 2020 targets (see manifesto p13-14) were the most significant achievement in the EP’.

In addition they outlined their ‘strong’ legislative record in the Parliament (and domestically) which have ‘achieved practical results’. These include: the EU Social Chapter (guaranteed Scottish people the right to take 5 weeks paid holiday, more maternity leave etc); leading the European recovery plan to tackle the economic crisis; and introduced a ‘European Arrest Warrant’ making it more difficult for criminals to avoid arrest by moving between EU countries.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Elspeth Attwooll is the current MEP though she has recently retired. The number one on the list is George Lyon who featured prominently in our events. Euan Robson, Robert Aldridge, Patsy Kenton, Douglas Herbison and Clive Sneddon complete the list. They are members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the EP with 99 members.

To the Lib Dems this election is a litmus test for Scotland. Either we choose to ‘work together for a safer, stronger world’ or face the big issues in ‘isolation’. ‘Britain should lead in Europe to tackle the big issues’ that pay no respect to borders.

The thrust of the manifesto is to demonstrate that ‘we are stronger together, poorer apart’. Economic globalisation necessitates that ‘we work together with European countries to promote jobs and growth in the current recession. Through cooperation the Lib Dems will: strengthen the economy sustainably by providing ‘more jobs & opportunities for businesses’; fight climate change; and tackle international crime and terrorism while upholding our civil liberties’. Mr Lyon stated that these were the ‘key priorities’ (see manifesto p7-9).

Their track record over the last five years includes: supporting the European Arrest Warrant, what Mr Lyon described as the ‘biggest achievement of the EP in the last five years’; consumer protection and increased competition in aviation and telecommunications whilst backing the ‘EU Health Card’ (see p12); and promoted a better ‘life-work balance’ by ‘extending maternity leave’.

Scottish National Party

Ian Hudghton and Alyn Smith are the current MEPs. Aileen McLeod, Drew Hendry, Duncan Ross and Gordon Archer complete the list. They are members of the Greens/Free Alliance group in the EP with 43 members. Click here for their election broadcast.

While the Conservatives and UKIP wish to preserve and promote British sovereignty, the SNP want to alter it with Scotland becoming an independent nation state and fully-fledged member of the European Union – a ‘stronger voice for Scotland in Europe’. This independence narrative is central to this manifesto as is the focus on economic recovery, job creation and renewable energy.

A key maxim for the SNP in these elections is building on the ‘achievements of the Scottish Government’. This translates into numerous ‘pledges’ (see manifesto p2): ‘protecting Scottish jobs’; ‘opportunities for education and skills’; and ‘standing up for rural communities’. Leading the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy are also key areas.

Both Mr Smith and Mr Hudgton at out events stressed their records in the last session of the EP. A key achievement to both was the ‘ambitious targets’ set out in the ‘climate change package’. Another was the ‘success in the CAP Health Check Process’, to name but a few.

UK Independence Scotland Party

Currently UKIP Scotland (from here on in “UKIP”) has no MEPs in Scotland although they have nine members in the EP. Peter Adams is number one on the list and is joined by Paul Henke, Donald Mackay, Peter Nielson, Michael Arthur and Paul Wiffen.

The raison d’ĂȘtre of UKIP is straight-forward: withdraw Britain from the European Union and replace our membership with a ‘genuine free trade agreement similar to those enjoyed by Switzerland and Norway’. Peter Adams made it clear that UKIP rejects political union but not economic union as was the case in the European Economic Community (EEC).

UKIP, however, are not a single-issue party as their campaign promises illustrates. An area of particular importance is immigration where they affirm that they are the only party that have consistently ‘voted against the open-door immigration policy’. We must ‘take control of our national borders and impose our own immigration rules’. Another key area is agriculture and fisheries where ‘European policies have been an ecological disaster’.

Peter Adams made it clear that UKIP are the ‘real independents’ in this election who are committed to uncovering the stream of ‘lies’ surrounding the European project and dedicated to delivering a ‘free democratic, independent Britain’.

Click here for all party election broadcasts for these elections.

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