Scotland: “Independent in Europe”?

(It’s an oxymoron, but let that pass)

SNP Leader Alex Salmond

We all know that you can’t be “Independent in Europe”.  You can’t be “In Europe, but not run by Europe”.  Indeed if we allow the EU its ambition to create “A Europe of regions governed from Brussels”, then Alex Salmond will have achieved his objective without the trouble of a referendum.

I have a high regard for Alex Salmond.  He’s a shrewd operator and a savvy politician.  He was very generous to me personally, years ago, when I asked for his help with a Burns Night speech.  But of course he’s utterly wrong on Europe — and on wind farms.

Scottish independence would dismember the United Kingdom, and there are those who argue that we should all have a say.  But this is a very difficult furrow to hoe, from a Unionist point of view, since opinion polls suggest that there is more enthusiasm for Scottish independence south of the border than in Scotland itself.

There are three main questions, it seems to me, that Scottish voters need to address before the referendum.

Will Scotland remain in the EU?  Salmond blithely assumes that Scotland will segue smoothly from EU membership within the UK to EU membership as an independent nation.  But constitutional lawyers are sounding exceedingly doubtful, and some EU leaders have suggested that Scotland would need to reapply for membership (though I should have thought that the chance to leave the EU was the best argument for Scottish independence).  And there is a major road-block in Madrid: Spain is robustly opposing automatic entry for Scotland, as it would create a dangerous precedent for secessionist Catalonia.  Presumably Spain would be needed to support Scottish accession.  And I suspect that it will be reluctant to do so.

Of course Salmond may feel that in the EU, he can rely on the funding previously supplied by London.  Which brings me to my second question:

Can Scotland afford independence?  Scotland has an enormously bloated, almost Soviet state sector.  How is it to be funded?  We in the Sterling currency union of England and Scotland (and Wales & Northern Ireland) have long recognised that in any currency union between disparate economic areas, you need long-term fiscal transfers from richer to poorer areas.  We call it the Barnett Formula.  You can’t rely on occasional emergency bail-outs.  You need long-term, large-scale fiscal transfers, year-by-year for the foreseeable future, as the €urozone is finding out the hard way.  Where will Scotland look for that money?  Surely Salmond doesn’t imagine that Brussels will subsidise Scotland on that scale?

Salmond occasionally talks about North Sea oil and gas.  But that is running down, and in any case it is not clear how much of it Scotland might be entitled to under international law as an independent country.  How much of the UK national debt does Scotland expect to inherit on independence?  And meantime the SNP is shooting the Scottish economy in the foot with its wind turbines and energy policies, which are desperately expensive and cannot guarantee security of supply.  And it’s shooting the Scottish economy in the other foot with its plan to close the Trident base at Faslane, as even the Guardian admits.  The closure would cause economic devastation in the area.

Will Scotland retain Sterling as its currency?  Salmond insists that Scotland would keep Sterling, unless and until it decided to adopt the €uro.  Note that on neither scenario — Sterling or €uro — would Scotland have its own currency and monetary policy.  Will London agree to Scotland keeping Sterling?  Why should it?  Presumably the Bank of England at least keeps Scottish interests in mind when deciding monetary policy — but there is no reason why it should do so for an independent Scotland.  And don’t even ask about bailing out Scottish banks!

I admit that I personally feel a profound emotional attachment to the UK as it is, and I fervently hope that Salmond will lose his referendum.  No doubt someone will ask why I feel so strongly about keeping the UK’s political union together, while opposing the European Union.  I can only draw attention to Enoch Powell’s dictum: that democracy works “between people who have enough in common, in terms of history, culture, language and economic interests, to accept governance at each other’s hands”.  In my judgement, that criterion is satisfied in the UK, but clearly not in the EU.

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11 Responses to Scotland: “Independent in Europe”?

  1. Dr Charles Wardrop says:

    Fully agreed, thank you.
    Salmon cannot love Scotland, as judged by his policies.
    The SNP seems a one-man-band at present.

    The Enoch Powell quotation is very apt.:-)

  2. Linda Hudson says:

    spot on, can’t argue with that!

  3. maureen gannon says:

    Que Sera, with all those little William Wallace ‘s in the year to celebrate Bannockburn it is in my opinion truly a case of Que Sera.

    What as always amazed me is the desire to remove the supposed shackles from London to wear a ball and chain under the likes of Barrusso an unelected Marxist who openly has declared the move to Federalism.

  4. John Latham says:

    Enoch was right again. What a pity we chose not to listen to him in the seventies. If Salmond thinks he’s keeping the pound should Scotland break free, he is more sadly deluded than normal.

  5. Ammonite says:

    He is NOT representative of the views of most folk I speak to. His methods appear to be Independence at any cost, on a raft of prejudice, bitterness and revenge. I am ashamed of his behaviour, concerned that the UK is endangered from within its own borders. Enoch was right.

  6. Cliff Williams says:

    Many of us Yanks have kept an eye on Scotland and it’s independence vote in the dreadful event that Obama is re-elected. Midwest Americans, living in Texas up through the central states, are going to need a place to move to. We grow food, drill for oil and build things and if we don’t turn things around here then we are going to need another option but we lean toward freedom from overbearing government. Scotland was looking like an option but not a Scotland IN the EU and beholden to Brussels.

    • MartinW says:

      In the event of the dreadful O retaining the presidency, it will be even more necessary that you and other right-minded folks stay to fight him and his policies!

  7. johnd2008 says:

    It is my belief that Salmond fancies his chances on the international stage. As First Minister of an independent Scotland he may be invited to all the jet setting parties that politicians find so necessary. Other questions that no one seems keen to answer, how many ships in Scotland’s navy, and how many squadrons in their air force? One good thing about independence is that we, the English, will no longer have to suffer rule from people like Gordon Brown.

  8. Thank you for a really succinct statement. Why isn’t anyone else saying it?

  9. Lt. Columbo says:

    Of course Robert de Brux, to give him his real name was a Europhile too and descended from a band of thugs who came over to Britain with William “The Conqueror”. Brux murdered a vast number of Scots in the very territory of Alex Salmond’s own backyard, in the North East of Scotland, in the so called “harrying of the north east”, when he stamped out, in a Stalinesque fashion any opposition to his usurping the Crown of Scotland, after he had murdered a rival in a church in Dumfries-shire. William Wallace was no crofting highlander, but the son of the Sheriff of Ayr, and a silk-pantalooned toff, who spent much of his “career” at the court of the French Pope of the time, and conspired with Brux to usurp the Crown from the rightful King, John Balliol.

    Yet both of these criminals are Heros To Alex Salmond.

    Says much about the man.

    • Ammonite says:

      In Salmonds attempts to re-write history, continuing the myths, ignoring the many in Scotland who dread his grandiose methods in store for us and our children I recall the history primer that circulated when I was in primary school. Its title was ‘Scottish History for Young Scots’ emblazoned with the St Andrew’s Cross, it spoke of Bruce, Wallace and Bonnie Prince Charlie. Even then the distortion of written contemporary souces of the day was never a balanced cautious method. We were simply taught to hate the English. That Scotland invented most things, that there was a Scot behind every good thing we enjoyed. Some of us had English parents, or God forbid an English accent. Some of teachings the detested tartan clad history teacher came to us in tears when she talked of Mary Qeen of Scots one minute and rose pheonix-like in all Presbyterian wrath and righteousness for Knox! Thank goodness my mother and father taught me to question and no wonder I did not excel in history until much later.
      Now we have another adoration for children in wind turbines and fear of climate change. …

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