A MAJOR international conference organised by the SNP’s youth wing will aim to show Keir Starmer how he has “abandoned” sister parties in Europe by backing Brexit.

The two-day Our European Future conference – organised by Young Scots for Independence (YSI) – will take place in Stirling this week and will involve a delegation of 25 youth leaders from across eight political parties from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, as well as the European Free Alliance (EFA). 

Some of the parties attending have had traditional alliances with Labour such as the Danish Social Democrats and German Social Democrats.

But Olaf Stando, international officer for YSI, said he wants to show these parties that the SNP is the serious party of Europe.

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Inspired by ex-MEP and now Stirling MP Alyn Smith, who famously asked the EU to “leave a light on for Scotland”, Stando told The National: “This conference is about leaving a light on for Scotland but not just leaving it on, brightening it up, so that it can be seen all the way in Brussels, and so that Labour can be ashamed in seeing their sister parties in Europe are coming to us because they have abandoned them.

“We want this light to shine into Keir Starmer’s eyes until he realises that backing Brexit was a huge mistake.

“We want to stress the SNP is the only pro-European party now left. Some of the parties have been traditionally aligned with Labour and we want to show them ‘you want to deal with us and not them’.”

The overarching theme of the event will be about democracy and ensuring that is bolstered not just in Scotland but across Europe, where far-right parties are gradually becoming emboldened.

There will also be panel discussions on keeping Scotland on the agenda when it comes to EU enlargement as the European election approaches, as well as debates on 25 years of devolution and increasing the number of women in political decision-making.

The National:

The conference – which was piloted last year in Edinburgh – has been about YSI connecting with parties the SNP haven’t traditionally had relationships with.

Beyond the connections YSI has with Wales and Catalonia as part of the EFA, Stando has been keen to establish links with parties of government in a range of European nations, including those potentially sceptical of the SNP.

Asked about how this year’s event had been organised, Stando said: “It’s been a challenge and not least because this year is much bigger in scale.

“It’s been challenging making that initial contact to parties we haven’t traditionally dealt with.

“We’ve always been close to the Welsh and Catalans, but in terms of reaching out to those Green parties in Belgium and the Netherlands and Germany, it’s difficult because people hear Scottish National Party and think ‘we don’t deal with nationalists’.

“So it’s been about showing we’re unashamedly progressive and pro-European and it just takes time.

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“It’s all about building those connections and turning those international delegates into ambassadors for Scotland’s right to choose. We’re not expecting the Germans and Danes to say they are for independence, but what we want to them to back is Scotland’s right to have a referendum so we can get back into the EU.”

Speakers at the event across the two days will include MPs Anum Qaisar, Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith, The National’s editor Laura Webster, Andrea Pisauro from Europe for Scotland, Morag Williamson from Yes for EU and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch.

Stando – who plans to stand down as YSI international officer in the coming months - said the SNP had a responsibility to continue to “talk louder” than any other party.

He hopes the second edition of the conference can inspire senior party figures to organise an equivalent SNP-wide event to ensure the sympathy Scotland has in Europe is fully exploited.

“I’m only in Scotland because my parents moved here from Poland in 2004, thanks to the EU,” he said.

“I care so passionately about this and I think Europe is in a bit of a crisis right now. Many of us in the YSI owe a lot to Europe and because the Westminster parties are not talking about it, we have to talk about it louder.

“We in the YSI want to show the party what is possible and say to the SNP this should be taken more seriously.

“Scotland has a huge amount of sympathy in Europe, but the SNP is frankly not quite doing enough to exploit that.  We need better coordination and we need different strands of the SNP to work together to create an international committee and unit, and I also want the SNP in the coming years to organise an international conference itself.”