Drive to turbo-drive pro-Europe campaign gets enthusiastic reception from big audience in Glasgow – Martin Roche reports
Saturday 24th June was probably the hottest night of 2023 so far. The marvellous weather did not deter around 100 from packing into the main lecture theatre at Strathclyde Business School to hear about a new drive to keep EU membership at the forefront of the political debate in every part of the UK.
First, David Clarke, chair of the European Movement in Scotland (EMiS) reported that support for Scotland being in the EU, regardless of the country’s constitutional status, was now much stronger than in the 2016 referendum (62%). Recent polling had seen support for the EU consistently in the mid-70s.
The brightest torch – Scotland
“Scotland is rationally and emotionally committed to being an active and enthusiastic member of the European community of nations. The country has been economically badly damaged by Brexit. Its place in the world is diminished by Brexit. Brexit has damaged our present and our future.”
David Clarke went to on introduce Dr Mike Galsworthy, elected chair of the UK European Movement (EMUK) in March. Since then, membership of the movement has grown to over 20,000, making it among the fastest growing membership organisations in the UK. This boost has allowed the EM to hire new staff in key areas, including data management, media relations, event organisation and policy research, bringing the total to 21. The goal now is to reach 22K sooner than later and higher by year-end.
Scotland has already benefitted through the appointment of former Glasgow councillor, David McDonald, as national organiser, with EMiS and EM sharing the costs of the function.
Dr Galsworthy opened his remarks by saying that Scotland lit the brightest torch in 2016 when every Scottish region – all 32 counties – had a majority for Remain.
“Scotland has kept a light on for Europe that has given heart and energy to the pro-Europe cause,” he said.
“All of us who believe in the fundamental importance of a partnership of nations across Europe, from whatever political persuasion we come from, know that the good of every part of the UK – Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales – is far better served inside the EU.
“Our job at EMiS and the EM is to ensure that our politicians are not allowed to forget that being in the EU is now the will of the people. Our mission is to use every sinew and pull every lever at our command to persuade the political classes that Europe is the future. Europe is where we belong.” This could be a 10-year project but maybe much shorter…
Mike Galsworthy and David Clarke emphasised that both organisations are open to people from all political persuasions and none. The only qualification for membership of EMiS or EM is a commitment to European political, social, cultural and educational integration and the “four freedoms” of goods, capital, services and people.
Asked if the organisations should publicly support the SNP and Scottish Greens because of their ambition to take an independent Scotland back into the EU, both said that as all-party organisations they are neutral on party politics but supportive of any part of the UK that wanted to be in the EU, regardless of constitutional status – a big nod to the SNP’s Scotland in Europe campaign.
Dr Galsworthy said that EMUK existed to support pro-EU groups and to listen to and learn from them.
“Our greater resources enable to offer financial and practical support to groups like EMiS, which will continue to be a uniquely Scottish organisation, with its own constitution, governing body, membership and finances. I am though delighted that we will be working more closely than ever and that the European Movement is in a position to help EMiS attract more members and invest in events and programmes across Scotland.”
Earlier on the same day, Mike Galsworthy had spoken at a meeting in Glasgow of the Young European Movement (YEM). YEM delegates had come from across Scotland. They also heard contributions from Kaukab Stewart MSP, from Scottish Greens’ Councillor Anthony Carroll, the SNP’s Councillor Declan Blench and Luis Gomez of the University of Glasgow.
“All polling consistently says that young people are overwhelmingly in favour of rejoining the EU. YEM is spearheading the work to engage people in schools, colleges, universities and the workplace in campaign to win back the opportunities lost through Brexit such as Erasmus+and the values of international partnership,” says David McDonald.