Friday, 20 May 2011

Out of the UK frying pan, into the EU fire?

(Published as a letter in the Scotsman)

Regarding what he characterises as "silly misunderstanding" and "clumsy distortions of SNP objectives" from independence sceptics, David Hill (Letters, 19 May) claims the party's position has "not changed at all".

But, for example, I seem to recall that independence envisaged a Scottish currency rather than sterling.

Then came the idealism of the euro, and whereas interest rates set by the Bank of England in London were considered inappropriate for Scotland, the European Central Bank in Frankfurt seemed more palatable.

More recently sterling seems to have become more attractive, but in a recent TV interview Nicola Sturgeon deflected her inability to address the issue by reverting to a "best interests of Scotland" style of answer, thus hardly consistent with Mr Hill's claim.

By the same token, it seems strange that the SNP would like to leave our domestic union but then cede sovereignty to a substantially bigger one in the form of the European Union, where Scotland's influence will surely be less than in the UK context.

Of course, Mr Hill will argue that an independent Scotland would choose to cede sovereignty to the EU, as compared with the current relationship between ourselves and the UK.

However, the weakness of such a stance is that the people of Scotland haven't demonstrated any desire to leave the UK, which is why Alex Salmond does not want an independence referendum at this time.

This will no doubt be formally tested in due course, but in the meantime those who portray Scotland as some kind of Western Tibet fundamentally misrepresent the (currently) settled will of the Scottish people.


Anonymous said...

I've got to hand it to your indefatigable efforts in convincing yourself that Independence is somehow a bad thing.

Having been an SNP member for roughly 25 years I have never known the party to suggest anything other than adopt sterling as our currency after Independence. There was certainly a while where policy was to migrate to the Euro 'when conditions were right' but then that sounds awfully like what UK govt policy has been on and off.

Just because you have the powers doesn't mean you must exercise them all at once.

You may be right that membership of the EU won't work. But, guess what, if it doesn't Scotland can choose to leave - something it couldn't do without being Independent of the UK.

Go on, give this self relaince thing a try - I'm sure you'll find if you make a mistake you'll soon find a way to sort things out.

Sceptical said...

What has not been said is what will happen in Scotland after independence. We know about oil, there is no doubt that this will bring in a lot of capital. But what about everything else? No one knows what will happen to their jobs, their benefits, their education, the military. What will be better for everyone? What happens with the EU? Who is going to vote for something they don't know about? The election was all about electing Alex Salmond.

Stuart Winton said...


Well I no more think that independence is necessarily a 'bad thing' than I think the Union is a good thing, but the latter is where we are at the moment, and it'll take something more compelling for me to support the gamble than what's currently on offer.

I couldn't care less if we were part of some EU superstate, for example, but only on the condition that it improved our governance, but the evidence there suggests otherwise, so at the moment the status quo seems the safest bet.

If I'd been born 25 years later then I suspect I would be with you, but experiene has bred cynicism, and it'll take an awful lot to overcome that, which indeed I suspect largely reflects the view of the average Scot at the moment.

As for the currency issue, my recollection was that a Scottish currency was a given a generation ago, but I bow to your superior knowledge, but to that extent also reflect that the SNP has never been as pro-independence as I thought it was ;0)

And you don't sound too convinced about EU membership either, which perhaps underlines my point about the lack of SNP certainty as regards what precisely an 'independent' Scotland's place in the world would be, which I suspect may end up costing the party dear - at least with the more fundamentalist Scottish Nationalism people had a better idea of what was on offer.

And one other near certainty - despite my "indefatigibility", I doubt if this blog will be doing much in the way of influencing public opinion on the issue, not to mention the word conjuring up unfortunate memories of George Galloway genuflecting to Saddam Hussain!!


Indeed, and I suspect the lack of clarity won't help the SNP sell [whatever] to the public at all, and won't help the pro-independence movement demonstrate a cohesive and united front either, which of course is not a situation the public generally find attractive as regards winning votes.

The tensions are pretty low key at the moment, but the Unionists will no doubt help stoke the fires in the coming couple of years.

Anonymous said...

Well it sounds like you are there to be won over and perhaps this blog will act as a bell-weather for the progress the SNP is making in stating its case in the coming months.

I am a bit of an idealist I suppose and have never needed much convincing that politicians who are wholly accountable to the people of Scotland are bound to make better decisions for the people of Scotland. (Incidentally I do not blame Thatcher, Major, Blair and Cameron for taking decisions so obviously in the interests of England - I am sure I would have done the same in their position. Gordon Brown is obviously a different matter though and was seemingly prepared to sell out Scotland for his personal and/or party interest)

The idea of the EU when expressed in free-market terms is very appealing but all the other institutions and mechanisms at play seem to be anything but free, ECHR and CFP to name but two. Norway and Switzerland seem to have a good balance - being part of the European Free Trade Area but outside of all the other regulatory crap.

Hand on heart that is my preferred position for Scotland but being a pragmatic idealist I think you fight your battles one by one and so am happy to go along with Independence in whatever form at the outset in the knowledge that we will mature (like any other nation state) into the structures that serve our interests best.

The SNP obviously wants to portray Independence as a fairly small step but that mitigates against selling it as a radical solution to current problems. What we are seeing, I believe, is the first stage to explain how easy the transition could be. This will be followed up with a further phase to explain all the things that could be achieved once the transtition has been made.

There is a balance to be struck. There will be some who will be convinced if it can be shown it is not a big step to make. There are others who will want to know just how the new powers will be harnessed to deliver solutions.

I'm in the school of thought that says we get the powers first and then we debate how they are used post-event. That position is, of course, influenced by the idealism I described at the start of my post.

Stuart Winton said...

Anon, thanks for the lengthy response, but to be honest I wouldn't hold out too much hope as regards this being the 'bellwether blog'; indeed, I don't envisage many of the people who contribute to Scottish politics on the internet - bloggers, contributors, tweeters etc - being amenable to fundamental change over the coming couple of years; most seem either overtly partisan or - like myself - fairly stuck as regards their outlook on matters of great import like independence.

It'll be the good old floating voters you'll have to convince, and of course they tend to be sufficiently disinterested in politics such that they're not using the internet to engage in the subject, which I suppose is why they're more amenable to change.

I suppose the difference between me and you is realism/idealism, pessimism/optimism etc, and my idealism/optimism has over the years given way to realism/pessimism, which I suppose makes me a small 'c' conservative when it comes to major societal change.

By the way, I like the 'pragmatic idealist' oxymoron, but I suppose there is some sense to it as you explain it!!