I would rather be dead in a ditch than fail to extol the virtues of being a part of Europe. It’s time for us to take control of our European identity again. We may be about to leave the EU but we are not leaving Europe. The U.K. remains a member of the Council of Europe. I was in Strasbourg on my way to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council when I stopped in my tracks and did a double take of the road sign. Yes it did say 'Quai Ernest-Bevin'. I was later to learn of the role Atlee’s Foreign Secretary played as a leading signatory to the Treaty of London in 1949 which set up the Council of Europe. It now has a membership of 47 states and 820 million people. It is sometimes confused with the EU and its European Council – an organisation of 28 (soon to be 27) members. The Council of Europe set up the European Court of Human Rights and exists to promote human rights democracy and the rule of law. We send a full cross party delegation to its Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg and we have representation from local authorities and the Scottish Parliament on its Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
We remain signed up to the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Tory Government might huff and puff about replacing it with a Bill of Rights but they should remember that it was Churchill and the Tory Party that helped establish the ECHR.
Ode to Joy is still our European Anthem. Again it was the Council of Europe that first adopted it in 1972 and it is widely recognised as the appropriate anthem when Europe competes in sporting events or is represented as an entity in its own right. I am not a great fan of national anthems but all countries do have one. Even constituent parts of states have their own anthems - the German Länder, the autonomous regions of Spain, Wallonia and Flanders in Belgium, and all the states of the USA (with the exception of New Jersey for some reason). The constituent parts of the U.K. all have anthems even if they cannot always agree on what they are. We do not abandon the European anthem just because we are leaving the EU. Our Brexit Party MEPs may have turned their back on the anthem at the opening session of the new European Parliament but as internationalists we should be proud to stand up for its continuing role.
Finally, there is no need to haul down the European Flag. It is the flag of Europe as a whole not just the EU. Since 1955 the blue flag with twelve yellow stars has flown proudly over Europe and should continue to do so here in the U.K. after Brexit. In fact we should start a campaign to encourage its increased use by the Scottish Parliament; our local authorities and other Scottish institutions. Now more than ever we should declare ourselves proud to be Scottish, proud to be British and proud to be European.