I'll have more fun - and better beer - hosting a CAMRA event than watching Farage versus Clegg

TONIGHT I'll be missing an event for which many politics geeks will be setting aside the whole evening.

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As they line up a few beers and nibbles and settle down for the big debate, I'll be having much more fun (and better beer, probably) hosting an event for the Campaign for Real Ale!

However, I may not miss much that's strictly relevant to Scotland's political landscape.

In the purple corner it'll be Nigel Farage, character actor of UK politics who leads the UK Independence Party, an eccentric bunch of activists reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch which somehow escaped into the real world.

Underneath that performance, of course, he represents a particularly nasty brand of hard-right economics, anti-foreigner rhetoric, and anti-politics cynicism.

In the orange corner it'll be Nick Clegg, the master of the empty campaign pledge and the leader who took the LibDems from plucky underdogs to a repository for the general contempt that many feel about politics in general.

Though both parties have an electoral goal in mind (Clegg and Farage both have reasons to hope that the platform will help UKIP take votes away from the LibDems' Tory partners) the substance of the debate is Europe. Should we leave or stay?

Could we renegotiate the treaties and bring some power back to member states, while the rest of the EU is seeking deeper integration?

What kind of union is Europe evolving into?

But for viewers in Scotland this debate is at a different stage.

We're all approaching the European Parliamentary elections on May 22, but the context is the independence vote just a few months later.

Don't expect to hear Clegg or Farage address the question of Scotland becoming a full member state, or indeed of the consequences if we vote No to independence only to see the UK (and us with it) dragged out of Europe.

Europe does need to change. The Greens, who currently have 45 MEPs, will be standing on a manifesto that sets out positive ideas for the fairer, more democratic EU we want to see.

But right now Scotland has no clear voice in that debate about Europe's future.

To gain a real voice, we'll need to elect strong, positive European MEPs in May, and we'll also need to take our seat at the top table by voting Yes a few months later.

The sixth MEP seat in Scotland is the one most likely to change hands in May - it could be the toxic UKIP or the rightward-drifting LibDems who take it … or it could be the Greens, setting out a vision of a better, more democratic Europe, and a positive view of Scotland's role within it. For more, check out www.europeangreens.eu

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