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George Lyon MEP speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat conference

September 14, 2013 11:59 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Speaking at Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow this morning (14 September), GeorgeGeorge LyonGeorge Lyon Lyon MEP said:

Let's not kid ourselves that everything in the EU is perfect. It needs radical reform and we need to fight from the inside to achieve that.

But -

Being part of Europe delivers millions of Scottish and UK jobs.

Being part of Europe gives us real clout in the world against the likes of the USA and China.

Being part of Europe allows us to tackle climate change , terrorism and other global threats.

Conference, Europe gives us real power and influence.

Europe supports millions of jobs and provides billions to invest in our industries.

As a pro-European party we need to take on the Sceptics and defeat their narrow nationalist view of the world in 2014.

In Scotland, of course, a referendum is a reality rather than a distant possibility.

12 months from now we will be taking a vital decision on the future of our country.

We will be deciding whether we want to go it alone or remain part of something bigger.

And if we leave there will be no turning back, no second chances.

I believe that the case for Scotland remaining in the UK is overwhelming.

Devolution has given us the best of both worlds. We have the power to take the big decisions on education, health, agriculture, and the environment.

We have the strength that comes with being part of one of the largest economies in the world.

Like the EU, our place in the UK supports jobs right across the country.

Our place in the UK allows Scotland to punch above our weight on the international stage.

And - we should not forget - it is our place in the UK that underpins our relationship with the European Union.

Alex Salmond has now conceded that an independent Scotland would have to negotiate its way into the EU.

But we should not let him forget that this was only after he went to court to block legal advice on EU membership that turned out not to exist.

He claims Scotland is strongly pro-European and much less Euro sceptic than the UK.

In his next breath he demands that Europe give an independent Scotland all the hard won opt-outs that the UK alone currently enjoys.

His list of demands is long.

Hundreds of millions of Euros in rebate payments.

The right to keep our own border controls.

The right to permanently stay outside Euro.

A special derogation from EU pension rules that could bankrupt funds based in Scotland.

Who would have the final decision on the terms of our membership?
The 27 other EU member States. Each and every one of them will have a veto.

And they have little prospect of getting their own way on border controls, on currency, or rebates.

Now, the First Minister tells us that these are just minor details.
He says member states will welcome us in with open arms no matter what we demand.

Conference, these details don't seem minor to me.

The SNP need to face up to the facts.

It is not credible to pretend we would be given automatic membership of the EU.

It is not credible to claim EU membership would come without a substantial price tag.

It is not credible to claim that we will not have to give some powers back to Brussels to secure our place at the top table.

Conference - It is time we had some honesty and straight talking from the SNP about what independence would mean for our place in Europe.
We know the SNP s No 1 priority is not the economy. Not jobs. Not the health service.

Their no. 1 priority is independence, independence, independence.
We see this clearly in the agriculture and food sector.

Our SNP Minister Richard Lochhead spends every waking minute
wringing his hands;

pretending he is powerless;

blaming the UK government at every turn;

The reality of course is that devolution has given him the powers the money and the flexibility on the CAP to take the long term decisions that will help secure the future of our agriculture and food industry.

It is now 3 months since the CAP deal was agreed in Brussels yet Scottish farmers are still in the dark over what Ministers have planned for them.

Decisions on the future of their business have been delayed while Mr Lochhead grandstands on independence, putting jobs and livelihoods at risk.

Is it any wonder people believe SNP Ministers have got the wrong priorities?

Conference - the SNP need to spend less time talking about the powers they want;

And more time using the ones they already have to help build a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Conference, it has been a privilege to represent our party and our country in the EU for the past 4 years.

And with my Liberal Democrat colleagues I am proud to have delivered real benefits for Scotland and the UK.

I am proud we increased EU spending on jobs and growth at a time when finances are tight.

Delivered a Greener and more Sustainable CAP that fits Scotland's needs.

Outlawed the practise of discards and helped open up new markets for Scottish exports.

I am proud to have delivered a budget that will deliver £6 billion of investment for Scotland in the next 7 years.

Next year, Scotland will go to the polls and people will have a real choice.

They can choose:

A Conservative party lurching to the right on Europe and putting millions of jobs at risk by rushing towards the EU exit door.

A Labour party that left us with a financial disaster of epic proportions and no money left to pay the bills.

Or a nationalist party that has made all the wrong choices for Scotland and puts independence first and jobs, growth, health last.
I think you will agree that these are all fairly unpalatable options.

But, they do have one other choice.

They can support a party that is unashamedly pro-European and is working to reform the EU.

They can support a party that is helping keep children and families safe by supporting international cooperation to ensure that criminals cannot cheat justice.

They can support a party that has delivered for Scotland at Holyrood, at Westminster and in Brussels and is working to keep Scotland part of the UK family.

Conference, with your support I believe that we can make the case for a strong liberal voice for Scotland; In the UK, In Europe and in Work.