Maybe it would be wrong to read too much into the recent plebiscite that took place over the weekend – and, no, I’m not talking about the antipodean result, I’m talking about Eurovision.
While I’m not much of a Eurovision fan, receiving three points from the public vote was maybe an indication that citizens across Europe aren’t all that happy with Brexit.
Which is why I see the elections that are taking place this Thursday as an opportunity.
An opportunity to send a message. An opportunity for people across Edinburgh to once again state how we feel about the EU and all the benefits that have come from the close relationship that we have had over the past decades. From the people that come to share their knowledge and expertise in our universities, the access to financial markets and businesses across the EU that have hugely benefited Edinburgh.
These elections are an opportunity because, in reality, following the result in 2016 many people, including me, didn’t think we would be having them. Even at the start of the year, when I shared a platform with Catherine Stihler MEP, it was unclear what would happen.
We find ourselves here because of the turmoil that we have had to endure since the result in 2016. With a Tory Government still dealing with its own internal struggles, leaving the country in limbo. There has been no constructive deal put forward that has received the backing of the UK parliament and the country, and so we still find ourselves in this untenable position. A position defined by the absolute deadlock the parliament has experienced over the past weeks and months.
The only way to break that deadlock is a public vote. Parliament is incapable of delivering on the result of 2016 and the parliamentary arithmetic isn’t going to suddenly change. A public vote is our only viable option.
As that deal is going to impact on our lives and the lives of our children for decades to come, it can only be right for the people to have their say.
Let’s not forget that the vast majority of residents in Edinburgh don’t want to leave the EU at all. A total of 78 per cent of voters in south Edinburgh voted to remain in 2016. That’s a little over 37,000 votes. That is a very clear statement. That majority has expressed the belief that we are stronger when we work together. It’s a sentiment that has been expressed by many local residents at the Brexit meetings I have held alongside Ian Murray MP over the past three years.
Those people understand that the EU may have its faults but that we need to work together if we are going to tackle some of the big issues that we face, from poor economic growth to climate change. We can’t afford to stand still when tackling these issues.
Whatever the result of the vote this Thursday, a clear message will be sent. Time will tell whether the Tories are able to listen or whether they will continue to ignore the public interest in favour of their internal squabbles.
Daniel Johnson is the Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern.