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EU membership. Commons Library. eurozone, politics. Scotland. independence referendum, SNP.

Of course Scotland would be admitted to the EU. Look at Latvia, Estonia etc etc.

  I’ve been in this game too long.   I remember being taken by the Tories nearly twenty years ago to Brussels to hear Baroness Ellis  warn that Scotland would not be allowed to join the EU.  Don’t even think about it!  France and Spain would block an independent Scotland to discourage their own separatist movements. England wouldn’t accept Scotland as a legitimate nation.  There would be years of wrangling over budgets.  England would dump financial liabilities onto Scotland to reduce its contribution to the EU budget etc etc..
 Scotland would end up broke and isolated, a ragged and homeless fragment lost in the North Sea.   It was tedious rubbish then, and it is rubbish now. Yet, barely a week goes by without some report or other announcing that wee Scotland would be frozen out of Europe and told to go and sit on the naughty step. 
    I’ve just been looking at the latest report to hit the front pages.  It came from the House of Commons Library and it is a background briefing note, not an authoritative assessment of the Scotland’s legal status within the EU. It carries its own health warning  “[This briefing note]  should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice or as a substitute for it.  A suitably qualified professional should be consulted.”   It goes on to rehearse all the arguments that have been made about Scotland’s relationship to the EU that have been made over the years. Pros and cons – naturally, the Scotsman chose the con and headlined this as “£8bn Bill To Join The Eurozone”. This presupposes that Scotland would automatically join the euro, which of course is not going to happen, at least in the short term.  Just like Sweden, Scotland would have the right to decide whether and when to join the euro. The report goes on to question whether membership would be automatic and finds differing views among constitutional authorities. 
   Lawyers make their money from creating legal complexity, so you will always find that there are differing legal opinions about secession.  But the political reality is that it is inconceivable that the EU would try to block an independent Scotland from entry. The EU is founded on the principle of national self-determination, so the idea that Scotland would not be recognised as a nation in Europe is ludicrous.  Scotland is already a part of the EU through its participation in the United Kingdom, and as a nation in its own right, Scotland would automatically qualify for membership of the EU.   It would take concerted action by the other member states to prove, either that Scotland is financially insolvent, or that it is not a democracy, or that it is in in violation of the European convention on human rights.   That is not going to happen. 
  Sure, there may be bureaucratic obstacles to formal entry – calculations of Scotland’s contribution, relationship to the eurozone, Shenghen – all of which are the subject of opt outs by the UK.  But many of these problems would also face the RUK (Residual United Kingdom) in exactly the same way.  How much should England and Wales pay exempt of Scotland?  What weight should English votes continue to carry in the Council etc etc..  
  But the central question: Scotland’s ability to remain in the EU, answers itself.   in 2004, the EU admitted a raft of small European countries many of which had been part of the Soviet empire.  The idea that the EU would reject Scotland because it used to be part of the UK is laughable. Iceland is being given a free entry ticket to the EU as I write.  Scotland is a wealthy country, unlike Greece or the small former Eastern block countries like Latvia and Estonia or minnows like Malta.  Scotland has around £400 billion in oil reserves, a quarter of Europe’s wind and wave energy, five of the top universities in the planet.  
I despair at unionists who make these arguments because they are only destroying their own case.  If this is the standard of debate we can expect in the run up to the independence referendum then – roll on independence!

    

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From the Sunday Herald – The Demonisation of Salmond. 

A spectre is haunting Scotland – the spectre of Salmond. In the past week the First Minister has been compared to the Zimbabwean dictator, Robert Mugabe. He has been cast as a “Jekyll and Hide” character whose true “bullying” tendencies have come to the fore since the May election. He has governed, some say, with a “sinister centralism”. To the London press the First Minister is a devious trickster, playing politics with the constitution. While City analysts Citigroup say his determination to plunge Scotland into the “uncertainty” of an independence referendum will destroy the Scottish renewables industry and deter investment.
And it doesn’t stop there. The outgoing Labour leader Iain Gray, used his farewell speech last week to condemn the “ugly side of nationalism” under Salmond’s leadership, which he claims is spreading “vile poison” across public life. The image is of Salmond as the Dark Lord, inspiring his “cybernat” demons to pollute the internet with what Gray called “smears and lies” against anyone who disagrees with him. Salmond was also accused of attempting to “nobble” critics, like the academic Matt Qvortrup who had objected to the two question referendum proposed by Salmond at his speech to the SNP conference.
Salmond has been here before of course, and he’s well used to unionists attempting to link him to the “dark side of nationalism”, as Labour’s former shadow scottish secretary, George now Lord Robertson used to put it. In the 1990s, Labour portrayed Salmond as a cross between Umberto Bossi of the Italian Lombard League and the Serbian dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. Salmond was famously dubbed the “toast of Belgade” for his opposition to allied bombing during the Kosovo conflict. More recently, before the 2007 Scottish election, the SNP leader was excoriated in the Scottish tabloid press as “the most dangerous man in Scotland”. During the recent Supreme Court row, the advocate general, Lord Wallace, accused Salmond of challenging the rule of law itself by his “aggressive interventions” against English judges.
The First Minister naturally dismisses these charges and points out that he remains hugely popular where it counts – among Scottish voters. They don’t seem to think Salmond has horns on his head. The FM’s personal popularity has been a huge electoral asset to the SNP, and it’s not surprising therefore that unionists have been doing their best to tarnish it. What is surprising is how inept they are at doing so. The comparison with Robert Mugabe was as ludicrous as it was offensive – no one, even Lord Cormack who made the remark, seriously believes that the FM intends to lock up opposition politicians and foment violence on the streets. in the same debate, the former Tory Scottish Secretary, Lord Forsyth claimed, under parliamentary privilege, that the SNP leader had told the chancellor, George Osborne, privately that if Westminster tried to stage its own referendum on independence would “use the police” to frustrate it.  The SNP say they’ve no idea what Lord Forsyth was talking about.
What the unionists never quite seem to grasp is that many Scottish voters – even some unionists – regard such remarks about Scotland’s elected leader as a slight against them. Treating the First Minister of Scotland as a devious anti-colonial demagogue or a proto-dictator is offensive toward the Scottish people. Similarly, the charge that Scotland is too wee or too poor to govern itself is counterproductive and flies in the face of constitutional reality in Europe. Yet, hardly a week goes by without some politician claiming that Scotland would be in the red to the tune of £4bn – this week’s figure quoted by Annabel Goldie in her swan song as Tory leader. There has also, in recent weeks, been a succession of “leaks” from “government sources” questioning Salmond’s policy on Europe. One claimed that it would take three years and “billions” in lost revenue, before an independent Scotland would be allowed to rejoin the EU. Another said that if Scotland did remain in Europe, there would have to be border posts to control immigration to England.
The SNP suspect there is a degree of co-ordination to the assault on Salmondomics. No sooner had Citigroup warned investors against backing renewable energy in Scotland last week, than the Institute of Mechanical Engineers tore into Alex Salmond’s industrial policy, saying there was “no credible evidence” for his claim that green energy can create 130,000 jobs. Nicola Sturgeon, standing in for Salmond at Question time in Holyrood, countered that Citigroup were wrong, that renewables were on target, and that, anyway, according to a report from Price Waterhouse Coopers, there was still £376 billion in North Sea Oil, waiting to be exploited. It was all rather similar to the debates before the creation of the Scottish parliament, when Edinburgh financiers warned of a flight of investment because of the “uncertainty” of devolution.
A degree of nationalist paranoia is understandable, but I very much doubt if there is a conscious conspiracy to demonise Alex Salmond. The Scottish unionist parties are in no shape to mount anything so coherent right now. Rather, there are signs that Westminster politicians, and the London media, are becoming more aware of what’s happening in Scotland and are starting to ask more searching questions, not just about independence, but also of “devolution max” – which many believe is simply a ruse designed by Salmond to “rig” the referendum so that he can’t lose. And it has to be said that many questions are  legitimate: there are indeed gaps in the SNP’s independence prospectus. If Scotland keeps the pound after separation, is that really independence? Do the SNP still support the euro, and how would it be introduced? Would England set up border controls if Scotland had a more liberal policy on immigration?
There has also been a more considered strand of criticism from liberal commentators like the journalist Joyce McMillan, who sat on the devolution constitutional steering committee in the 1990s. In an article last week, she warned that Scotland was becoming, by default, a “one party state”. “It’s time” she said, “for the people of Scotland to wake up to the dangers of this largely unforeseen situation; and perhaps to start developing some new and imaginative mechanisms for challenging the SNP’s dominance, forcing it to clarify its ideas, and holding it to account”. The SNP’s decision, after the Scottish elections to “hog” the chairmanships of parliamentary committees is regarded as a sign of this centralism – though it has to be said that packing committees is what all governments do.
Since the May election, Salmond has certainly lost no time in sweeping aside opposition to his legislative programme. Last week, he pressed ahead with minimum pricing of alcohol, a measure that had been defeated by the opposition parties before the 2011 election. The SNP have also introduced a supermarket levy and Salmond seems determined to drive through with the highly controversial “Offensive Behaviour at Football Matches Bill” in the teeth of opposition. After the SNP won a comfortable vote on this bill on Thursday, Labour, Lib Dem, Tory and Green MSPs issued a joint statement, also backed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald, which accused Salmond of ignoring parliament: “If the SNP government exploit their majority to force through this rushed, flawed piece of legislation there is a real risk it will do more harm than good.”
What ever happened, say opposition parties, to Alex Salmond’s commitment to the “new politics of cooperation and compromise” that he proclaimed after the 2007 election? All politicians develop autocratic tendencies – remember Tony Blair. In Scotland, moreover, there is no second chamber, no House of Lords, to balance the power of the government in the lower house. Also, Scotland has traditionally been run by crony networks based on Labour Party membership – remember the Sinclair Report in 2001 which identified the networks of Labour patronage that radiated from the Fife offices of the former First Minister, Henry McLeish. There is a legitimate concern that the SNP might seek to replace the Labour “crony state” with a nationalist one.
However, it would take more than a few intemperate remarks about English judges to justify a claim that the SNP is running an autocratic administration still less an elective dictatorship. It’s not been in office long enough to make such an impact anyway. As more key offices become available for patronage, we will be able to see which way the SNP intends to blow. For example, nominations close shortly for the post of Information Commissioner, to replace Kevin Dunion, a vigorous defender of freedom of information, who clashed with Alex Salmond over FM’s refusal to public civil servants’ internal advice over the merits of local income tax. If the SNP-dominated committee appoint some nationalist toady, we may be justified in concluding that there are incipient centralist tendencies.
But so far it is hard to justify the charge that the SNP has been creating anything like the one party states that Labour presided over in the past. The simple truth is that Salmond is popular because he appears to put Scotland first. Many non-nationalists support the SNP because Nationalist ministers appear to be doing a good job. By demonising Alex Salmond, the unionist parties risk undermining their own case. Like the SNP, they need to start talking Scotland up, instead of talking Alex down.
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About iain2macwhirter

Writer and journalist.

Discussion

14 thoughts on “Of course Scotland would be admitted to the EU. Look at Latvia, Estonia etc etc.

  1. A further argument for Scotland's EU membership continuing seamlessly after independence is to remember the effect of (non-)membership on real people. Would the EU really declare that all Scots living in other EU countries (including the hundreds of thousands in England) no longer have the right to live and work there? And how would they enforce that? Forced deportations? Sounds very messy to me.The ludicrous notion that any and all new countries joining the EU must adopt the Euro doesn't stand 5 seconds scrutiny. Off the top of my head here are some difficulties for such a policy:* the historical precedent of those countries that have joined over the past 10 years and not adopted the Euro* the future precedent it would set, particularly when one considers the prospective new members that might not quite be ready for the Euro (most of the Balkans, Turkey, even Ukraine)Given the events of the past few months would the EU really insist on a new member adopting the Euro when the economic conditions weren't right for the switch? I imagine future membership of the Euro will be subject to rather more scrutiny than was hitherto the case.Finally, Iain is absolutely right: by over-indulging their appetite for negativity the Unionists risk destroying Scotland's self-belief and confidence in order to win the referendum. That would be a classic case of winning the war only to lose the peace in my view.

    Posted by forfar-loon | November 10, 2011, 3:23 pm
  2. Democracy is best served when decision making is devolved to the appropriate level.Herein lies the basis for arguing in favour of raising money through a local income tax – touched on in your article and one which I suggest needs to be discussed more comprehensively.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 10, 2011, 3:54 pm
  3. Your article on EU membership is spot on. As to the second article: ""What ever happened, say opposition parties, to Alex Salmond's commitment to the “new politics of cooperation and compromise” that he proclaimed after the 2007 election?"" After 4 years of trying to co-operate with the opposition parties and their mind-numbing obstinacy and political posturing I think I would have given up long since on trying to get deal with them. The opposition parties constant refrain of 'one-party dictatorship' merely underscores their failure as opposition parties and says little if anything at all about the performance of the SNP in Government. At some point someone should take the opposition parties aside and point that out to them.

    Posted by CWH | November 10, 2011, 4:47 pm
  4. "Just like Sweden, Scotland would have the right to decide whether and when to join the euro."Except unlike Sweden Scotland wouldn't have its own currency, so it could not possibly meet the requirements of the Eurozone. So in fact, the SNP's proposal for an independent Scotland keeping Sterling precludes Scotland from joining the Euro.I understand and can accept the broad stroke of your point here; but unless you are honest about all aspects of this issue then you are in danger of making merely a party political point, rather than a rational one.

    Posted by @dhothersall | November 10, 2011, 4:49 pm
  5. Our neighbour Norway is not doing too bad (actually they are doing extremely well) not being EU members but with EFTA membership.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 10, 2011, 5:36 pm
  6. Anonymous: not just Norway, but the rest of Scandinavia too. The fact is, it doesn't really matter whether Scotland is in or out of the EU, or whether it's in or out of the Euro.http://wingsland.podgamer.com/?p=12070

    Posted by RevStu | November 11, 2011, 1:45 am
  7. Well said Iain. Much of this was backed up on Derek Batemans Newsweek Scotland last Saturday. Even in a hostile media both print and broadcast the truth will out.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 11, 2011, 10:34 am
  8. Not only should Scotland not join the euro, it should leave the monetary union with RUK. Monetary union without political union has resulted in the disaster we're now witnessing, and yet that it precisely the policy the SNP currently advocates. The SNP needs to get real and make plans for Scotland to have its own currency.

    Posted by Phil Atkinson | November 11, 2011, 10:58 am
  9. (including the hundreds of thousands in England)..Forfar LoonThank you for your concern for us. Now can help ensure that we can have a vote in the Referendum. Afte all other Scots in Europe will have.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 12, 2011, 11:18 pm
  10. Ian you have indeed seen it all with regard to Tory deception of the SNP, attempt to join the EU after independence will you please do an article on the advantage to the yes side for independence?

    Posted by rouser | November 13, 2011, 1:26 pm
  11. To Anonymous,As I understand it Scots living outside Scotland will only get a vote if they are still on the Scottish electoral roll. That won't be all of them by any means.It's probably a fair compromise though. There are a good many Scots living abroad and it would be tricky to define criteria for their inclusion or exclusion. Born in Scotland? Raised in Scotland? (Grand)Parents from Scotland? All of the above?You could soon end up with more Scots voting from outside Scotland than those inside! Given that the result of the referendum will affect those living in Scotland the most (not exclusively mind you) I guess the current electoral roll is as good a cut-off point as any.But in an ideal world I'd like to see Scots abroad retaining the option to vote "at home". Curse me for sullying my separatist credentials, but I think it's a great thing for young (or old!) Scots to go out and see the world, build their experiences and then hopefully return to help improve Scotland one day. They shouldn't be punished for doing so by losing their right to vote. At the moment Scots abroad for less than 15 years can vote in UK general elections but not in Holyrood or local elections.

    Posted by forfar-loon | November 14, 2011, 9:12 am
  12. I was resident in Wales at the times of both referendums on the creation of a Welsh National ssembly.NOTE: The operative word being 'resident'.Residency was the criterion then and that should be the criterion when the future status of Scotland is again being considered in a referendum.

    Posted by Ian Innes | November 14, 2011, 10:45 am
  13. "(…) Professor John Usher [professor of European law and head of the University of Exeter School of Law] has suggested [in a memorandum to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, March 19th 2008] that the Lisbon Treaty might indirectly make it easier for an independent Scotland to remain a member of the EU:'As someone who spent a total of 14 years working in Scotland, I had several discussions with SNP politicians as to whether Scotland would automatically remain a member of the EU if it became independent. Without getting involved in the niceties of State succession, a simple answer used to be that a new Treaty would have to be negotiated to deal with issues e.g. of representation and voting rights. However, (…) the Reform Treaty considerably reduces the need for future Treaty amendments with regard to these issues, by removing specific numbers from the Treaty texts. To that extent, the Reform Treaty may be said to strengthen the arguments in favour of Scotland automatically remaining a member of the EU if it were to become independent.'(…) The SNP administration has maintained that an independent Scotland will automatically be a member state of the EU, apparently on the basis of separation of the union (meaning that both Scotland and the rest of the UK would retain their international obligations and membership of international organizations). This would require the separation to be voluntary and agreed. Scottish Ministers have apparently suggested that membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) could be an alternative to full EU membership, and that an independent Scotland would hold a referendum on joining the euro." (Scotland, Independence and the EU, A Thorp and G Thompson, House of Commons Library, November 6th 2011)While the Scottish Government claim regarding the 'separation of the union' formula is dismissed by anglo-unionists, on the basis, apparently, that it seems to them to suit their convenience to adopt an irrationally cavalier attitude towards it, that claim can be and indeed is independently represented as soundly based:"Aidan O’Neill weist auf eutopialaw.com darauf hin, dass es aus europarechtlicher Perspektive nach Rottmann und Ruiz-Zambrano kaum gehen dürfte, die Schotten ihrer Unionsbürgerschaft zu berauben. Daher würde der EuGH vermutlich die Unabhängigkeit im Sinne der Separation-Lösung deuten." (Max Steinbeis, Verfassungsblog, November 15th, 2011)"(…) the question to ask is whether the CJEU [Court of Justice of the European Union] would consider that the fact that Scotland became independent required that all (or any portion) of the previous UK citizenry thereby be deprived of their acquired rights as EU citizens? Given the CJEU’s high theology of the primacy of EU law, and of EU citizenship as being 'the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States', it is suggested that the most likely position that the Luxembourg court would take, if faced with the question of Scottish independence, would be (…) 'separation' (…) That is to say that the CJEU would rule that Scotland and EWNI [England, Wales and Northern Ireland] should each succeed to the UK’s existing membership of the EU, but now as two States rather than as one. Such a ruling by the Court would affirm the primacy of EU law over national and international law, confirm the role of the CJEU as the final arbiter on such weighty matters of State(s), and be presented as EU law re-connecting with, and protecting the acquired rights of, individual EU citizens." (Aidan O’Neill QC, eutopialaw.com, November 14th 2011)

    Posted by Frankly | November 17, 2011, 10:24 pm
  14. NEWS FLASH – Scotland is ALREADY a country!! and it's ALREADY IN the EU!

    Posted by markola | October 24, 2012, 9:49 pm

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