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There is growing interest internationally in the political progress being made in Scotland towards the referendum on Independence. We are far from alone in seeking independence for our country, but many eyes are fixed enviously upon us because our referendum campaign timetable is set - and the Yes campaign already under way.
Our colleagues in the European Free Alliance parliamentary group, currently including MEPs from Wales, Flanders, and Galicia, frequently illustrate in their own countries the example being set by the SNP, of good government hastening progress towards independence. The European Free Alliance (EFA) is also one of the EU's officially recognised European Political Parties.
EFA member parties are from nations, stateless nations and territorial entities with a strong sense of identity that want a proper voice in Europe. EFA brings together 40 progressive parties who have elected representation at local, national or EU level in 17 Member States.
EFA has always advocated self-determination, and the right to speak and protect native and historic languages. Scotland, Wales, Catalunya, Flanders and the Basque Country are now well advanced on their road to national self-determination and a full place at the EU top table.
According to a recently commissioned opinion poll, a clear majority of people in Catalonia now back independence. The survey indicated that 51% of Catalans would vote 'yes' if an independence referendum was to be held. In Flanders the NVA, the party of Flemish independence, won the most-recent Belgian federal election, and continues to increase support levels according to opinion polls.
Here in Scotland we will be the first among the EFA countries to have the opportunity, in a referendum, to choose independence. With independence - the normal status of nations like Scotland - we would have a full and proper say in international bodies like the EU, with the guaranteed rights, to vote and to veto, that only independent member states are entitled to.
The SNP wants Scotland to have what other countries take for granted - the freedom to decide what kind of society we want to live in and how we want to interact with the world around us. As individuals, we value our own independence. We accept that it is entirely natural to make our own decisions, to earn and spend our own money, and to take responsibility for our own lives. Why should we settle for anything less for our country?
We've seen Scotland grow in stature and recognition around Europe in recent years, thanks to the dynamic approach of an SNP Government, making maximum use of the limited powers available with devolution. Yet we still have fewer MEPs than countries of a similar size and no automatic right to send Ministers to EU Council of Ministers meetings, where so many important decisions are made.
The referendum brings an exciting and historic opportunity for the Scottish nation and for all who live in Scotland, and is an inspirational example of democracy in action. The votes of the people will determine the constitutional future of Scotland. Let us be inspirational in encouraging the voters of Scotland to sign the Independence Declaration, and to vote Yes in 2014.