Hush! If you ever want to hear the sound of silence it’s to listen to the major London parties as they duck, dive, avoid, procrastinate, obfuscate and blindly ignore the giant elephant in the room which is Europe and our relationship with it.

At a UK-wide perspective, while not entirely surprising given the level of debate, it is still disappointing – eight years after a razor-thin win in a referendum based on a giant lie about the NHS, with sluggish growth, half-baked relations with our nearest neighbours amid a war on the edge of Europe, and a new hurdle to life everyday blithely explained away as regaining our sovereignty, you would think this would be the ideal cudgel for the opposition parties to finish off the present government. Not so apparently.

In fact the political cowardice that we face from the London opposition parties on Europe is shocking on two levels: one, because it's deeply illogical; the world and his wife knows that if you want to make the lives of people across the UK better then you have to deal with Brexit.

However, in some ways far more important is the dishonesty of it, because we all know that many of these politicians are deeply supportive of the European project – all we have to do is Google or YouTube their strongly professed positions from the time of the referendum right through to our eventual departure from the EU in early 2020.


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I'm not going to name names, because you know who I am talking about and, hey, isn't that the game we’re playing anyway? A nod to a minority of diehards in England’s north that you can trust us, we are not going to undo Brexit – and a wink to the lion’s share of Labour, Lib-Dem and centrist Conservatives – come on, you know the difficulty we’re in and we are all really pro-Europeans.

How dishonest is that? It takes us all for fools: pro-Brexit voters because politicians hold them in such low regard that they cannot be told the truth; and the pro-European majority of supporters (and as it happens the majority of the UK population now) because it takes us for granted – “you have nowhere else to go!”

It’s clear of course that Scotland has a closer and more emotional connection to its European heritage than our neighbours down south. At a recent meting in London I was surprised to see some still suggesting a strategy of coaxing the UK back into the European fold with simple statistics on rising prices and airport queues.

All very well but in Scotland this is not a transactional relationship; we feel deeply European, and that needs to be recognised. Of course we have to be realistic and in a state of more than 60 million people we can't expect UK-wide politics to dance to a Scottish tune. But what we can expect is that the UK is more than just an equally weighted amalgamation of the populations across its territory.

There is a balance between recognising that while England does represent the majority of the population of the UK, built into our constitutional settlement, especially after devolution, is that the nations of the UK have a collective voice and rights as well. That's why the whole Brexit debacle has been so damaging to the concept of Britishness north of the border (many of our members that I have met say they were anti-independence before Brexit).

In Scotland, the continuing indifference to our views is also deeply damaging to our body politic. In a country as divided as Scotland on our constitutional future, we need all the common ground we can find. Europe is indeed a shared goal across the vast majority of people living in this country. It’s also a safe space for those from either the pro-union or the pro-independence side who believe in progressive and liberal politics to come together.

But if the Labour Party claims to want to make Brexit work and the Lib-Dems seem to be in a muddle as to whether they’re against Brexit or not, what are Scottish voters to make of that but to think that the way to express our Euro enthusiasm is through pro-independence parties.


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Quite perversely, the silence is also undercutting the very things that pro-Union parties say they stand for in terms of the UK – an essence of Britishness which is not one-dimensional but multifaceted and able to hold a number of divergent views under its banner. If we have to toe, not just the English, but the little Englander line on Europe, how are we ever going to have the space to develop any policies and solutions tailored to our own needs?

Therefore it needs to be said by the leadership of those parties in Scotland that while they believe Scotland should remain in the UK, they diverge from the London perspective and strongly support our return to the EU as soon as possible as well, not some vague ambition for a closer relationship sometime off in the dim, distant future; otherwise through silence and omission they are just giving tacit support to a decade-long, jingoistic English navel-gazing exercise.

The entire European project is about something deeper than our national or regional identities and is something that we can all share in – after the horrors of the Second World War it was a project built upon pragmatism, negotiation and avoiding confrontation. The pro-Union parties can stop Europe becoming another contested space in Scotland – all they have to do is speak up.

David Clarke works in financial services and is chairman of the European Movement in Scotland, which is Scotland’s oldest pro-European grouping. It campaigns for Scotland’s reentry into the European Union and provides information around European issues. It’s part of the wider European Movement International, founded in the aftermath of the Second World War to bring the peoples of Europe together.