IN A TWEET deserving more attention than it has received so far, anti-nationalist account @themajorityscot alerted me to a pro-EU Scottish group I hadn’t noticed before, eu+me:
To clarify where I’m coming from. I voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum and I deeply regret the decision my fellow citizens took by a narrow majority to leave the EU. But the Tory government was re-elected by a large majority in 2019 with a mandate to ‘get Brexit done’. It was a democratic decision. I have no problem with anyone (still) campaigning to remain in, or more accurately rejoin, the EU. That’s democracy too. But the deal is done and, meantime at least, we live with the consequences.
So why my scepticism, as you’re about to find out, about eu+me?
The fundamental reason is transparency, in several respects.
First, there are already significant players in the pro-EU movement, across the UK. Most notably in Scotland is the European Movement in Scotland, whose website says:
We campaign to promote the European Union and Scotland’s fullest possible participation now and for the future.
Their president, vice-presidents, patrons and executive committee includes present or past elected politicians of all the main political parties in Scotland – SNP, Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens.
The newly established eu+me group says it is:
a network of pro-Europeans campaigning to join the EU.
At the moment, their entire team consists of only ten people:
You’ll note the lack of any Conservative or Labour representation, a single not particularly well-know LibDem peer, and the fact that 50% of those involved, five out of ten, have a very clear affiliation to the SNP.
While you will struggle to find anything about the genesis or structure of eu+me on their website, Companies House confirms that it is a private company with the name EU AND ME, limited by guarantee without share capital:
You’ll note that it changed name three months ago from EU4ME Ltd, and if you click through to the page showing the officers of the company, there is only one:
This is the same Nick Bibby who is a vice-convener of the company board. He has had a very diverse career. Before his appointment as director of Scottish Policy and Research Exchange (‘a network of researchers and officials based within universities, research centres and policy making institutions across Scotland working together to improve policy outcomes’) he seems to have been mainly a freelancer/consultant in the area of public relations and communications, although he did undertake a brief stint as business editor of the short-lived pro-independence newspaper The Scottish Standard.
You will observe I have yet to include a link to what the website calls eu+me. If you search for it you will be taken to this address, whose upper part, as I write, looks like this:
I will return to the content of this page shortly.
There are four legal requirements of every company website in the UK. It should show:
- the company’s registered number
- its registered office address
- where the company is registered (England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland)
- the fact that it’s a limited company (usually by spelling out the company’s full name including ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’).
This website meets none of these requirements. The nearest it gets is the strapline at the bottom of every page:
But (see the Companies House entry above) this is not and never has been the name of the company.
These errors are easy enough to rectify but the company was established twelve months ago and launched in July this year. The mistakes are indicative of a general sloppiness and should not have been perpetrated: in case the website is changed suddenly and the errors rectified, the original images have been saved in the Internet Archive. In particular, the lack of information about the company is disturbing when (see the home page extract above) it is actively soliciting donations, of between £5 and £100, or more if you were so inclined. It includes no postal address beyond a PO Box number or confirmation that it has its own bank account, and the only way you can donate, though I doubt any readers of this article will be tempted, is through PayPal.
Although the company is actively seeking donations, it must already have significant funds, source unknown, as it is recruiting for staff on a page ambitiously signposted as Careers. There are currently vacancies for a director and a campaign co-ordinator, both full time and pensionable on salaries respectively of about £50,000 and £36,000. Assuming modest oncosts of 20%, that’ll be an annual bill of over £100,000. It is not clear to me if the current director and co-ordinator are filling their roles on a temporary basis or whether they are the successful candidates from the recent recruitment exercise described: but the difference is not material to my point.
Staff costs are not the only financial commitment EU AND ME has entered into. Apart from their website, they have also commissioned survey work of public opinion. And here we come to another curiosity.
News of a first apparent poll was released in late-June. The Daily Express described it as carried out by Survation on behalf of ‘Fergus Mutch and a group of Pro-EU campaigners’ while the Daily Record referred to ‘a new pro-EU Scottish campaign group’.
Nearly a month later, on 22 July, The Herald (and others) publicised what that newspaper called ‘a new poll … for a new “eu+me” campaign’, again carried out by Survation.
There are no links to the full data tables (good practice for any poll) but head over to the Survation website and you find these entries in their survey archive:
The first point to note about the two related polls dated 29 June, one covering Scotland, the other the UK as a whole, is that they were both carried out on behalf of one Mark Diffley. Although he runs his own research company, Mr Diffley is also research and polling advisor to the Progress Scotland organisation run by Angus Robertson, ex-SNP MP and potential SNP candidate in May 2021 for the Holyrood Edinburgh Central constituency. The third poll, dated 23 July, was carried out on behalf of eu+me. Observe however, that the fieldwork for both the Diffley Scottish poll dated 29 June and the eu+me dated 23 July were carried out over the same dates, 9 – 16 June, and that the sample size was also the same, 1,127. That’s because, despite eu+me giving the contrary impression, there only was one poll, albeit one that curiously was carried out in one guise for Mark Diffley, in another for eu+me.
The single Scottish poll and its origins might make the alert reader wonder if there are undeclared, possibly informal, connections between Progress Scotland and eu+me, and between the ex-SNP MPs who head up each group. To put it bluntly, are they both organisations for the benefit of the SNP and two of their leading (temporarily ex-?) politicians? And in the case of eu+me, is Nick Bibby merely the hired hand, the PR guy setting the organisation up for someone else to run?
A word on the third poll – of 1022 people living throughout the UK. It’s not immediately clear why Mark Diffley would commission that. But dive into the detail of the eu+me website and you find some clues. It says, with relevant parts highlighted by me:
[We are] a campaign group [that] believes it is important for the wellbeing of everyone in these islands that we stay as close to the EU as we can … We will make the case that Scotland and the rest of the UK are European nations … Ultimately, we would like to see the countries that make up the UK rejoining the EU … The project has been launched in Scotland with the intention to roll out in other parts of the UK over time.
Beyond these generalities and the one poll, there is no evidence that eu+me is pursuing any UK-wide ambitions, nor indeed in my view would it succeed if it did. The claim is a mere charade. The clue is in the highlighted language of those quotes, and in the ambition cited earlier to ‘join the EU’. Because this is not about the UK rejoining the EU, but a separate independent Scotland joining for the first time. Fudging that ambition is one way of luring in people and their money who might be more cautious if they realised all this.
So, in summary we have a new company with a single director that wants to give the impression of being an independent campaigning group but is in fact closely related to the SNP. It has a website that is less than transparent (not unlike the SNP’s egregious National Survey) and at the time of writing breaches legal requirements. It must already have substantial funding (from unknown sources) but is seeking donations, precise purpose unstated. It maintains, in my view, a pretence of having UK-wide ambitions. It is Scottish through and through and knows its stated purpose can only be achieved by a separate Scotland.
And that’s what it is, another nationalist front. As they say in the classics, let the buyer beware.
Footnote. Although it doesn’t seem to realise, EU AND ME has the same name as an EU campaign designed to inspire young people in Europe. I guess that since we’re no longer EU members that doesn’t matter, even if it causes some confusion for young Europeans seeking to develop their careers or fill their leisure time more positively.
This article was first published on Roger White’s regular blog ‘The people said No Thanks!’ ThinkScotland is grateful to Roger for allowing us to repblish it here.