A Euro “out” campaigner is spearheading a drive to send a clear message to the EU – that Britain is better off stepping away from the union.
Scalloway resident Scotty Van der Tol has put himself forward as the local representative of Leave.eu, the official campaign which favours Brexit in this summer’s EU referendum.
He hopes to gather like-minded people who will convince the electorate that EU membership is cumbersome and undemocratic.
Leave.eu wants to negotiate its own trade deals globally, citing an agreement brokered between Iceland and China as evidence of the potential opportunity open to a UK outside of EU influence.
It insists cheaper food bills, no membership fees and the lifting of regulation costs could result in each household being up to £1,000 better off each year.
Mr Van der Tol, who stood in the 2005 general election and for the council in 2007, under his previous surname Dyble, believes there is strong interest among the electorate in support of Brexit. He even goes so far as to describe the European union as “a dictatorship”, which people will want to leave.
“There’s interest there. I think most folk have an opinion on it,” he said.
He says the economic argument supports an EU departure, insisting the country is “basically neutering” itself by focusing too much on EU trade.
“The world is far bigger than the EU, and the world is expanding economically. The EU is decreasing.
“Fundamentally, the EU is not a democracy. It’s a dictatorship. It’s illegitimate in terms of democratic decision-making.”
Interest in the EU debate has been increasing, particularly since Prime Minister David Cameron brokered an agreement in Brussels – trumpeted by Mr Cameron and his supporters as a major achievement – which secured several changes.
Some observers feel the pro-European argument suffered a backfire when President Barack Obama warned Britain would be “at the back of the queue” when it came to trade agreements, should it vote to leave the union, with The Sun newspaper declaring most people would vote out following Obama’s so-called “bully-boy tactics”.
Mr Van der Tol believes the time has come to walk away.
“The EU from the very beginning was all about creating a single European state,” he said, dismissing the deal agreed with the PM that the UK was not on the road to deeper integration.
“The EU itself are all signed up to this single, European country. That’s the goal.”
He cited an analogy of a group of people boarding a plane to Japan, only to find once airborne that the plane was going “somewhere else”.
They haven’t got there by common consent. They’ve got there by rough-shodding over democracy. SCOTTY VAN DER TOL
Mr Van der Tol was less than convinced by the argument cited recently in this newspaper by the pro-Europe George Jacobson, who said EU membership had helped prevent war.
“If you look at the history of Europe since then – with Nato, the Cold War – the EU hasn’t prevented any wars. It hasn’t gone on to solve any wars, either. It was the Cold War that kept peace in Europe.
“The people who died in the Second World War died to remove dictatorship in Europe, and yet here we have an unelected president, with an unelected commission, with embassies around the world. They haven’t got there by common consent. They’ve got there by rough-shodding over democracy. They’ve had to go against democracy to get to that point.
“If you have these unelected dictatorships removing democratic [control] and running over democracy, the EU is more likely to be the cause of the next conflict in Europe, not the prevention of it.”
He said the UK had “not benefited” from EU membership.
“They talk about rebates and grants, but that is just a portion of our own money coming back to us.”
And the result come 23rd June?
“I think it will be close. I think, the people who want to leave are far more committed than folk that want to stay. Folk that want to stay are maybe not caring so much, but folk who want to leave are … They want out.”
He dismissed as “just a threat” calls within the SNP for a second Scottish independence referendum should Britain move to leave the European Union, adding First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “does not have the constitutional authority to call a referendum”.
“It’s not within her legal ability to do so.”
He added that, had Scotland voted to leave the UK, it would be leaving the EU.
“If we voted to leave the EU and, for some reason, the SNP did call a referendum then we would still be leaving the EU if we voted yes.”