Alyn Smith MEP: Scotland’s ambassador in Rome as Europe marks 60 years of unity
IN A SYMBOL OF UK ISOLATION there was only one EU leader missing from the historic ceremonies marking 60 years of European solidarity: Tory leader Theresa May.
However, as leaders and campaigners from every European Union nation rallied in the spring sunshine of Italy’s ancient capital, Scotland, perhaps the next member of the European Union, is represented.
At both the forum led by EU federalists and the rally towards Rome’s Coliseum Alyn Smith MEP – clad out in traditional tartan just to make his presence all the clearer – makes Scotland’s case.
The reception, like the standing ovation Smith received following his post-referendum speech to the European Parliament – is warm and at points exuberant. In a packed morning schedule at the Congress Centre Roma Eventi featuring Italian secretary of state for European affairs Sandro Gozi and European Parliament Brexit Negotiator Guy Verhosfstadt, Smith recites his consistent message of the past nine months:
“Scotland stood and stands with Europe, remember to stand with us,” he says.
In the fraught emotional atmosphere of Brexit – where more integrated continental countries feel rejected and shunned by the tone of the Tory-Ukip driven divorce – Smith’s simple reminder of friendship goes a long way.
But each intervention is not an act of sympathetic counselling for bruised egos. It is as close as Scotland’s MEPs can currently tread towards the role of national ambassador – seeking goodwill and emphasising solidarity ahead of the tough two year (perhaps even longer) Brexit discussions to come.
Smith’s work in Brussels provides links across the European institutions and with MEPs in all the 27 EU governments. These goodwill efforts have previously taken him to Germany and Poland, pushing the specific case for Scotland in Europe.
Again, with a rally gathered by the river Tiber, Smith makes the case to a cheering crowd.
“Remember us. Remember your friends,” he says, reminding the audience of Scotland’s vote to remain.
“Scozia! Scozia! Scozia!” and “We love you!”, they chant back, before an hour long session of photo requests commences. There is also serious business between the hand shakes. Andrea Orlandosp, the Italian Justice minister, is introduced to Smith – and they chat away along the march.
Rome crowd chants “Scotland! Scotland!” as @AlynSmithMEP, in Italian, calls for European solidarity with #ScotlandInEurope. #EU60 pic.twitter.com/geXNv62rNN
— Michael Gray (@GrayInGlasgow) March 27, 2017
There are less official ambassadors too. Ewan, from Kilmarnock, Elanaor, from Airdrie, are two of the Scots flying saltires among a sea of European flags.
Eleanor from Airdrie flying the flag for Scotland in Rome. Hopes an independent Scotland will Remain in EU. #EU60 pic.twitter.com/SHinr8VUoS
— Michael Gray (@GrayInGlasgow) March 25, 2017
The Scottish Government and Scottish politicians have also met with ministers from Germany, France, Belgium, Malta, Greece, Sweden, Norway and Iceland – at least in more clearly publicised meetings – since the Brexit result. The Scottish Parliament – with Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat support – sanctioned the strategy following the vote to Remain in the EU.
Nine months on, with the Tory position for negotiations only marginally clearer and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitting a ‘differentiated’ deal for Scotland looks difficult to achieve, there may soon come a time when that goodwill is needed to translate into something tangible – the membership of the EU that experts say is in Scotland’s gift to achieve.
If that does become the challenge for Scotland’s independence movement, it will need muster all it’s ambassadors – both official and unofficial – to make it a reality.
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