There appears to be a concerted programme of disinformation being followed by unionist parties. The latest is how Scotland would need to reapply to be an EU member in its own right, complete with letter to the House of Lords stating this. At least, that’s what the Hootsmon claimed this week.
Except, there wasn’t any letter and the Hootsmon was forced to print an apology to that effect. Yet that didn’t stop the Tories fulminating that the SNP had changed its mind on EU membership by shifting from a position that membership would be automatic. For the objective third of Scots yet to jump into one trench or the other on this, allow me to recap the story so far:
- Originally, the SNP opposed EU membership as it would mean some loss of sovereignty and, having none at the time, they were impatient for all 100%.
- As the party matured in the 1980’s wilderness, it realised how Scotland might benefit from good friends outside the British Isles too and became pro-EU.
- The EU has no official process for ejecting a member or for dealing with an existing member wishing to become two. Barossa’s comments this week reflect the closest thing to that: anyone not a member must follow the accession process to become one. This is the answer he gave David Martin MEP in 2004.
- The SNP’s position is Scots are already members, complying with membership requirements, so there should be no obstacles to Scotland remaining a member.
- Furthermore, in the event that the Commission decided that any renegotiation were necessary, the two years or so between 2014 and 2016 could resolve that while Scotland was still a UK component. We could slide seamlessly from membership as a part of the UK to membership in its own right.
- Scotland is NOT comparable to ‘new’ members seeking accession: it does not have Turkey’s human rights issues, Serbia’s racist history. Iceland’s belligerent fisheries or Croatia’s dubious finances. It is the only oil-rich state the EU, would make positive net contributions; therefore most members don’t want to lose us.
- Those few states who have an issue are restricted to Spain (not wanting to encourage the Catalans) or Belgium (not wanting to encourage the Flamands). But the idea of Flemish provinces that border Brussels being thrown out of the EU is so ludicrously self-evidently stupid that it’s hard to see the Commission ruling that way for Scotland in case it would set a precedence for Belgium.
- Before and after 1707, Scotland was and is a country, with its own laws, church, culture and identity. It STILL ranks 15th among recognised states in the world. The United Kingdom is just that—a union of two countries and, like a marriage, the creation of a joint identity does not erase either original identity.
Though some are undoubtedly playing the daft laddie on the above, the worst is the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party. Though there are honourable exceptions—members who are genuine Scots and shred their lip staying loyal to what their southern cousins get up to—the bulk behave much like an English National Party. From the leafy shires of the Home Counties come a phalanx of Tory MPs for whom culture ceases beyond Watford; they just don’t ‘get’ the diversity of Britain. Whether backbench Jeremy Hunt & Spock (John Redwood) or front-bench Michael Gove & Philip Hammond, the Surrey mafia rools (ya bass).
A measure of Tory lack of modernity is that the ‘unionist’ part of their title has nothing to do with Scotland; it refers to Ireland. Hundreds died in the last century for that supposedly unifying sentiment. If it made any sense today, why would Eire not reject any ‘Arc of Insolvency’ and be clamouring to get back into the UK? This week’s riots over flying the flag over Belfast City Hall underscores how unresolved feelings remain there ninety years on from sneaky retention of the six counties as part of the UK. This was done to give fig-leaf cover to the ‘union’ part of their title.
As they dig their heels in about Scotland too, despite their having been reduced to a rump here for doing so, you wonder if they’re secretly plotting to hold on to Shetland or Faslane à la Ulster. While appalling personal attacks on the First Minister may well be all that Scottish Labour in their reduced straits are capable of, our Tories had at least once shown both guts and ideas—until Murdo Fraser’s radicalism lost out to Babe Ruth’s pitch to the blue-rinses.
Since then, Ruth has shown herself every bit as dire as Johann, dabbling any mud handy and flinging it across the chamber. This is a pity. With the virtual annihilation of the Lib-Dems as a force at Holyrood, the Tories are our one hope to keep pace with the SNP and hold them to account: ‘Bella’ Goldie achieved quite a lot doing just that 2007-11—but her matronly low-key lessons seem to have been ditched.
This week, things deteriorated further with Jackson Carlaw carping about perceived SNP inconsistencies about Europe. Granted, the UK Tory record of dire hostility to Europe from Thatcher to May is forced on them by a significant Eurosceptic wing of the party who behave as if the next Napoleon were about to muster another invasion force on the Pas de Calais. But the more reasonably balanced Scottish Tories have no room to talk, bound as they are to xenophobic English colleagues who run the show.
Perhaps its because the English have such influence with them but Scottish Tories seem oblivious to the Scots’ relative warmth towards Europe and immigration and their total rejection of UKIP and BNP. They are not embarrassed as the rest of us are by a grumpy UK approach to our best market and nearest friends. They are not annoyed as the rest of us are that they sell our major fisheries and spirits duty interests down the river, that they keep air passenger duty high so we have few direct links into those markets, that the real advantage of HS2 is over the long distance to Scotland and that is kicked into the long grass.
But, most of all, they betray their own principles of self-sufficiency by pooh-poohing that Scotland has enough oil left worth exporting, that we could become THE leading source of renewable energy, that we could make things business-friendly so that BAE would keep building ships and we might stretch our existing lead in quality research and manufacturing over our English cousins as they struggle to overcome the Osbo/Irn Broon debt mountain while we pay off our share in short order.
Which is a shame. We need a decent opposition, especially when we get independence. If our Tories were to climb out of the swamp they’re wallowing in with Labour, we could see Keith Brown being challenged on transport ideas, Swinney’s mettle tested with alternatives for business growth and Lochhead not monopolising farming’s enthusiasm—an area Tories once called their own.
If they want to get a clue, they could start by shutting up and watching one of their own. Liz Smith sets no heather alight. But she knows her education brief, has carried it with distinction for years and is pragmatic enough to work with others to achieve her goals. She is one of the few reasons I do not look forward to more Tory wipeouts in Scotland. And, dire as any other opposition is, that’s their future if their collective heads stay stuck in history’s sand while their country moves far beyond them.