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Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh
16th July 2013
School's out for the Summer

Itís the start of the school holidays. Iím about a week into the month of Ramadan and the Scottish Parliament has gone into recess for the summer. Maybe that classic Alice Cooper track of 1972 is ringing in some peopleís ears!

You might think I could breathe out a little, even relax, but that couldnít be further from the truth.

SNP members have all, by now, received their voting packs for the ranking of our six candidates in next yearís European elections.

This year, our members have the new option of voting online Ė handy for those who may be on holiday and a way of helping save postage and printing costs for HQ.

The ballot papers went out on 8th July and need to be returned by 29th July. That makes it a busy month for all six candidates seeking a crucial placing on the list. The SNP has a good and very fair system in place for the ranking. Every member has the option of placing the six candidates in the order they see as best.

The Labour Party, on the other hand, remains mired in confusion about its candidates.

All of our candidates, including me of course, are busy seeking out opportunities to build their own profiles and make sure MEMBERS are aware of what they each want to achieve for the SNP, the Yes campaign and in Europe.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to feature on an end-of-the-parliamentary-year debate about where the campaign for independence is placed at the moment  ( My apologies to American readers who wonít be able to see this without a VPN!

Former Scottish Tory leader, Annabel Goldie

I was interviewed alongside the redoubtable former leader of the Scottish Tories, Annabel Goldie, who was predictably pressing the cause for Project Fear, previously known as Better Together until it was discovered that the term Project Fear is the one used by the in-house staff to describe its campaign strategy. I was puzzled when Ms Goldie declared she hadnít heard the term.

Perhaps I was at an unfair advantage: I had a vision AND A practical opportunity to explain why it would be so much better for Scotland to be able to make decisions for itself rather than be tied to the tail of a UK Government that has cost this nation dearly, and for which Scots havenít even voted.

Our First Minister, Alex Salmond, was talking on Friday about the unions Scotland has Ė with Europe, a defence union with NATO, A currency union, the union of crowns, and a social union with the rest of the UK. There is a sixth one that needs to go; itís the one that isnít working for Scotland Ė the political union with the Westminster Government.

As the First Minister explained to The Guardian newspaper: ( "We have a social union which is about much, much more than Westminster. It's about family and emotional ties. We will not become a foreign country, that's simply ridiculous. Does anyone think Ireland is a foreign country? And as for the currency Ė well, Scotland has as much of a claim on the Bank of England as anyone else; it was a Scot who founded it, after all."

I was actually born in London and my parents still live there. I donít feel any threat of alienation at all from my relatives and friends in England and that isnít going to alter with a Yes vote.

Our sense of connection with others isnít broken up by national boundaries. Lots of us have friends and relatives who are Canadian, American, Pakistani, Indian, French, Italian, Irish. We have no sense of losing our relationships with any of them, regardless of what country they happen to live in.

Letís look specifically at Europe. Okay, not everyone speaks Estonian or Romanian, but many of us have at least some French, Italian or Spanish and it probably would be a good idea if more English speakers tried to learn a second language. I speak French and have a degree in IT, but yes, experience tells me that in most of Europe English is enough. Around two million people from the UK live in Spain and only a small percentage speak the language.

Language doesnít need to be a barrier in Europe. Neither does the nature or type of national government that is in place. It is the absolute right of the citizens of any democratic country to vote in the government those voters feel will best serve them. We can do that in the Scottish Parliament. We canít do it in Westminster.

Just as I feel absolutely comfortable with Francois Hollande in France or with Enrico Letta in Italy, I will have no objection to whatever government the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland choose to elect in Westminster once we have an independent Scotland. I have absolutely no right to do so Ė but I do have a right to vote as an elector in my own country and to cast my vote for the Party that has my absolute allegiance and only a yes vote will ensure that we in Scotland will finally get the Governments we voted for.

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