The rarified rooms of the Royal Society in George Street are a perfect setting for the David Hume lectures and a perfect antidote to the brawling good cheer of All Bar One across the road. This month, the lecture was on Scotland in Europe, featuring Sir John Grant (late of the diplomatic service and British Gas) as the main speaker.
His main thrust—probably to be expected in the context—was that only at the EU level would there be much world influence in the future. This was because the UK’s scale was too small to be decisive. Since Europe defined standards to which goods must be produced and these were stricter than elsewhere, they became de facto the world standards. The room being full of grey-haired establishment figures, I expected the sound of unionists turning in their graves to become deafening. But it was as cogent a dismantling of the Brian Wilson/Jim Murphy litany that Scotland must hold tight to nanny UK in order to survive as I have ever heard.
During the extensive Q&A session Dr Rory O’Donnell (Director of Eire’s National Economic & Social Council) fielded some sizzling questions on the Irish economy and its constraints on economic maneuver that using the Euro implied. While cheerfully blaming Ireland’s incestuous banks (“they were busy selling bits of Ireland to each other”) he was convinced that significant manufacturing and creative sectors would revitalise the badly hit finance and construction sectors and with the German powerhouse export economy (over EU220bn surplus last year) the Irish were in no danger of fiscal disaster.
The only constraint of caution was added by the German Consul, Wolfgang Moosberger, who felt that, after decades of carefully choosing what was best for Europe, Germany now had more than enough sense of itself to take off after its own interests, dragging the rest of Europe along with it.
Again, none of this was the orthodoxy of the Scottish press and I marveled that I could have discovered here revolutionary material to justify Scotland ploughing it own furrow, forging its own links within the EU and, as a small country, being more nimble and successful at it than our bigger, clumsier cousin south of the border. A radical thought.