The London-based campaign to remain in the European Union launched this month, featuring several well-regarded figures from all parts of our society.
Among them was the former head of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) Sir Hugh Orde, who claimed that the UK would become a safe haven for criminals if it left the European Union. Why? Because we would find ourselves outwith the European Arrest Warrant, or EAW, process. He said: “If I was a villain somewhere else in Europe and I’m escaping justice, I am going to be here because it is going to take a lot longer to get me back.”
He may be right. But in using that kind of language we run the risk of adopting a paranoid UKIP mentality, substituting criminals for migrants and conjuring the image, as the late Geoffrey Howe put it, of a continent “positively teeming with ill-intentioned people”.
I’m more than willing to make the emotional argument for the EU and the multitude of opportunities it offers us. But I’ve come to learn that not everyone responds to that argument. They want detail, data, logic.
So we need a rational debate that weighs the evidence, not a shouting match built on scaremongering. Could Scotland cope with two Project Fear campaigns in as many years? Pro-Europeans are in danger, like Better Together, of winning the immediate fight but losing the war.
Let’s look at the EAW in a little more detail.
The EAW simplifies the process of extradition among EU member countries. It has dramatically cut down on the bureaucracy and time taken to process an extradition request and has compelled hundreds of criminals to face justice in the UK. Among them are Hussein Osman, who planted a bomb shortly after the 7/7 attacks in 2005 and who subsequently fled to Italy – but was swiftly extradited to Britain because of an EAW.
Dozens of extradition requests are processed by the Sheriff’s court right here in Edinburgh each year. There’s a broad consensus here in Scotland that the EAW process basically works.
The Law Society of Scotland found that the EAW offers “a better system” than the one which preceded it. And in contrast to the libertarian accusation that the EAW gives too much power to prosecutors, the Law Society found it actually “benefits” the accused as extradition proceedings are more efficient and detention is significantly shorter than in the previous regime.
The system is by no means perfect. There have been tragic cases like that of Andrew Symeou, extradited via EAW and imprisoned in a Greek jail for almost a year because of mistaken identity and a deeply flawed police investigation. More legal and parliamentary scrutiny would deepen the legitimacy of the EAW.
The alternative is to negotiate 27 separate agreements, probably ridden with loopholes, with all the bureaucracy and duplication of effort that would involve. But beyond lining the pockets of extradition lawyers, how would justice – or Scottish interests – be served by this? It’s impossible to see such a development as anything but a step backward.
Theresa May’s ineptitude on this issue, first threatening to scrap EWA but then rushing it through parliament provoking mutiny from her backbenchers, showed that any Westminster-led debate on the EU will be dragged to the uncompromising right, with little regard to Scotland’s needs or priorities. It makes the case for a separate Scottish pro-EU campaign that can lead the argument for a reformed EU in a way relevant to modern Scotland.
Scotland and the rest of the UK want different kinds of Europe. The Prime Minister wants to take us out the social chapter. He wants a weaker environmental policy. He wants to curb free movement. He wants, essentially, a Europe of big business and trade. That vision is completely out of step with any progressive political party in Scotland.
Let’s illustrate Scotland’s vision for Europe. A worker’s Europe with strong social protection, a compassionate Europe that shows leadership in times of crisis; a Europe that invests in young people, in research and innovation – and a continent able to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.
So let’s build a Scottish campaign that every progressive can support. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.
Toni Giugliano is SNP candidate for Edinburgh Western in next year’s Holyrood elections