Green councillor Melanie Main argues that European elections should be an investment for the long term.
On 23 May voters here in Edinburgh, and elsewhere in the UK, will almost certainly go to the polls to elect 6 MEPs to represent Scotland in the European Parliament. Since the UK remains in the EU and will do so until at least 31st October, we need to take part in elections to the Parliament which oversees the EU.
That is right and necessary.
It is necessary because the shambolic way in which Brexit has been handled has failed to achieve any agreed understanding of what Brexit actually means in practice. The UK Parliament, in turn, has failed repeatedly to agree any form of deal for the UK or a competent way forward.
It is also right because quite simply it is right for the UK to stay in the EU.
In my view, from the start, the referendum was deeply flawed for failing to define what was meant by “leaving”, was subject to breaches of campaign rules and is now utterly discredited. Through the work of Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, the UK Government has been successfully challenged in court on its cavalier approach to triggering Article 50.
From day one Scottish Greens have been 100% on the remain side: Greens believes a partnership across the European Union is the best way to tackle the great challenges of our age, such as the climate emergency.
That’s why I’d urge people on 23 May to vote Green for a party that firmly puts people and the issues we face first. Let’s put a stop to Westminster bickering and personal politics.
But there are practical matters too. This week I obtained information which puts the costs of holding the European elections here in Edinburgh alone at over £1 million, with over £10m for Scotland and £120m for the UK as a whole. That is the minimum cost, with no account taken of staff time, diverted into managing elections no-one expected. The council will get some of these costs back but not all.
These are large sums in any eventuality. However, in previous elections, at least the spending has been in the knowledge that it was sending MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg for a full five-year term.
This time, there is still uncertainly: the election could be cancelled at the last minute, even though much of the cost will already have been committed. What a waste! Even if the elections happen, MEPs may take their seats for only a few weeks before they are pulled out. What a waste that would be too!
Scotland is ahead of the curve here. 63% of people in Scotland voted to stay in the EU. In Edinburgh the figure was even higher at 74%. If you add in almost 50,000 Edinburgh residents who are EU nationals and who were barred from voting in the 2016 referendum, we have a city which is more than 80% remain.
So is it not time to accept that Brexit has lost all credibility, to commit to staying in the EU and to make sure that our money is well spent electing European Members of Parliament to act in our best interests for the next five years?