Spain’s PM has his own reasons for opposing Scottish independence. But it would be naive to take him too seriously, writes George Kerevan
I AM a citizen of the European Union. I have been since 1973. In fact, of the 28 current members of the EU, the vast majority (19) joined after Scotland did. Scotland complies with all the many rules – legal, economic, political and social – required of each EU member state. In fact, we have a better track record of compliance than many other countries. Scots have long been at the centre of promoting European collaboration. David Maxwell Fyfe, a canny Scots lawyer, was instrumental in drafting the European Convention on Human Rights.
Why then should there be any doubt regarding Scottish membership of the EU if we vote Yes to dissolving the 1707 Union with England next September? Would there need to be discussions with Brussels over Scotland’s financial contribution and voting rights in the EU? Obviously – but the same would go for the down-sized remainder of the UK. Such a tidying up-operation could surely be done in parallel with the negotiations being conducted between Holyrood and Westminster regarding independence itself. Why would either Europe or rUK want it otherwise?
Of course, political life is not so simple. There are vested interests that want to make the process of formalising EU membership and de-merging from the UK more difficult for Scotland than it need be, or should be. I just want you to realise that the creation of such roadblocks – real or imaginary – has nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland’s ability to be a good EU member, comply with EU rules, or play a constructive role in European affairs.
So when it’s inferred you should not vote Yes because Scotland’s continued membership of the European club would be put in jeopardy you are being – not to fudge the issue – blackmailed. It’s a nasty word for a nasty piece of politics. Those doing the political blackmailing also have a poor regard for the intelligence of the average Scottish voter.
Consider a lurid headline yesterday in one of the big London dailies: “Spanish PM: Independent Scotland would be kicked out of the EU.” The article went on: “Scotland would be kicked out of the European Union if it voted for independence, Spanish Prime Minister says, contradicting Alex Salmond’s claims membership would be seamless … Mr Rajoy’s intervention is severely damaging for Mr Salmond as it would mean Scotland having to apply from scratch for EU membership, a process that would take years, and having to negotiate its own opt-out from the euro”.
The newspaper I quote, like most of the London press, is rabidly anti-EU. Its leader column carried the following diatribe last week: “The lifting of restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian immigration in the coming New Year has crystallised in the minds of many voters just how powerless we can be in the face of an ever-expanding European Union.” The leader page even went on to praise David Cameron for wanting an in/out referendum on EU membership.
Surely the London newspaper’s response to Mariano Rajoy’s comments on Scotland should be something like: “Voting Yes means escape from daft Brussels bureaucrats.” Or “Up yours, Rajoy, we prefer the freedom to control our own borders!”
On the contrary – even though it hates the EU and its works, alleging a threat to Britain’s racial purity and way of life – it deliberately used the threat of an independent Scotland being thrust out of the EU as an argument for voting No. Do London leader writers think Scots are naive? Answer: I think they do.
According to the latest opinion poll – which uses the exact wording in the Tory draft bill for an in/out EU referendum – 36 per cent of UK voters say they will vote Yes (to stay) but 45 per cent will vote No (to leave).
That means that even if Scots stick with the UK, the current likelihood is that English voters will take us out of Europe anyway. And the anti-European London press will be whooping for joy. The very same press that keeps trying to frighten Scots voters with dark tales about how difficult it will be for Alex Salmond to negotiate continued EU membership.
What of the intervention of Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister? Again, we have someone who is not concerned with the facts of Scotland’s European credentials – Scotland was in the EU before Spain. In fact, Scotland was a democracy before Spain was. Mr Rajoy leads a country with 56 per cent youth unemployment and 0.1 per cent growth. He needs to talk to John Swinney about how to run an economy.
According to the polls, 80 per cent of Catalan citizens would like to hold a self-determination referendum. In the last Catalan elections, parties proposing a self-determination referendum received 80 per cent of the votes. But Mr Rajoy is refusing to countenance such a referendum.
Mr Rajoy’s threat to force an independent Scotland out of the EU has nothing to do with Scotland and everything to do with blackmailing Catalan democrats into dropping their threat to hold a referendum anyway. I have a smidgen of understanding for his position. The old Francoist Right in Spain still exists and is making grumbling noises about a coup if the uppity Catalans exercise their democratic right to vote on self-determination. A desperate Mr Rajoy is using Scotland as a stick to beat the Catalans. He’d be better to use the example of Scottish democracy in action as a stick to beat the fascists.
The debate regarding independent Scotland’s future relations with the EU is being deliberately obfuscated. There is nothing in the EU treaties that covers a member state dissolving into its constituent parts. Politicians such as Mr Rajoy can express all the personal opinions they want but the only constitutional body that can adjudicate on the treaties is the European Court of Justice. My advice to Scots is this: set your own course and don’t be bullied by those with agendas of their own.