Young people in Scotland must be part of building a better Europe

By Ross Greer

It’s hard to appreciate just what an achievement seventy years of peace in Europe actually is, particularly when you’re separated by at least three generations from the last time our continent was devastated by war.

For many of us born after the fall of the Berlin Wall the idea that we should stay in the European Union to keep the peace doesn’t usually come across as being that credible.

But make no mistake, it is at the core of why we should vote Remain today. After hundreds of years of near-constant war we have achieved decades of not just peace but cooperation across our continent.

And that cooperation brings huge benefits to young people here in Scotland. When the UK government is quite happy to see the youngest workers exploited by zero-hours contracts, poverty pay and poor conditions, it is the EU which guarantees us all some significant rights – to a minimum amount of annual leave, ending dangerous hours & overwork and safety regulations which have reduced workplace deaths by over two thirds.

Such measures are unlikely to survive if we give Westminster full control. UK Governments have a history of trying to block such progressive steps.

For young women in particular, the EU has delivered – on guaranteed maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. Again, these are the kind of protections I’d rather see guaranteed at European level than left to the whims of Westminster.

And as the generation who will face the results of climate change and a destructive attitude towards our planet, we are already benefitting from the EU’s work to reduce emissions, tackle air pollution and protect our local environments (including the ban on dumping raw sewage into our seas, which cleaned up dirty, dangerous beaches up and down the country).

But the clearest example of what the EU has given young people is the freedom of being a European citizen – the right to live, work and study anywhere across our continent. Plenty of young people in Scotland have taken up this opportunity directly, particularly with EU programmes like ERASMUS removing the barriers many would otherwise face.

But just as importantly, we also benefit from those across the EU who choose to come to Scottish universities, to contribute their skills to improving our economy and who enrich our culture so much by bringing a little bit of home with them.

And we reject completely the campaign of fear, racism and division from the Leave side. It’s not EU immigration which puts pressure on our NHS, it’s Tory cuts supported by the same Tories calling for Brexit.

Not for a second can any of us pretend the EU is perfect though.

In Greece the huge cuts and other austerity measures the ‘Troika’ has insisted on have resulted in 50% young unemployment. And when those young people came out in force with others from across Greek society to vote against austerity, first by electing (and re-electing) a SYRIZA government and then by rejecting the austerity measures directly by referendum, their democratic choices were simply steamrollered and more devastating austerity was heaped on them.

Similar, if less severe stories can be seen from Ireland and Portugal to Spain, where again young people have been at the forefront of resisting austerity and changing Europe. On Saturday Spain will go the polls again, with Podemos, a new party born from Spain’s indignados (‘outraged’) anti-austerity movement in with a strong chance of forming government.

It says a lot though, that despite all of this SYRIZA, Podemos and the young people who drive them forward are still committed to the European project and are today asking us to stay a part of it.

We have built a system of protections for workers, communities, the environment and more which should not be thrown away but our allies need our help to go further - to break the power of the big banks and the elite political class.

We can reform Europe. We are reforming Europe. A cap on bankers’ bonuses was said to be impossible but now it’s in force - a measure (won by Green MEPs) which would have been impossible for countries to introduce individually in such an interconnected financial world.

And the European Parliament we elect is growing in power and confidence. It’s still not nearly powerful enough but one glance at the House of Lords should knock any argument that we’re strengthening our own democracy by giving more power to a broken and corrupt Westminster system.

The EU is far from perfect but it has achieved a lot. It has given us opportunities young people nowhere else in the world have. We should fight for it. Fight not just to stay in but to transform Europe.

We know that another Europe is possible and young people in Scotland must be part of making it happen.