A word of advice on telling the truth
One simple question: why was my money being spent on legal fees to suppress supposed legal advice obtained by the Scottish Government on an independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union when no legal advice had been obtained (your report, 24 October)?
The First Minister was called a “liar” on Tuesday by the Labour Party following his interview with Andrew Neil earlier this year.
In being as generous as possible, at best it transpires that he has misled the Scottish people.
In his SNP conference speech, the First Minister said: “Over the next two years our task is clear – to tell the truth about Scotland and what we can achieve.”
Let us all hope that he now intends to “start telling the truth”.
From the utterings of Alex Salmond and Scottish Government representatives over the past year or so, I am sure that any member of the public with a modicum of common sense would have assumed that legal advice about an independent Scotland’s position in Europe had been obtained.
The fact that the government resorted to expensive litigation to protect the release of such advice bolstered this assumption. Now we are told differently.
It’s difficult to know why Mr Salmond wasn’t open and honest about the issue. The public’s trust in the SNP government has suffered and one wonders what other issues are being hidden by an administration seemingly intent in transforming Scotland into a Third World country.
Oh dear! It goes from bad to worse. Now the First Minster has been caught being less than candid with information regarding the legal position of an independent Scotland and the EU.
He clearly implied in the Andrew Neil interview that advice had been sought regarding this vital aspect of the independence process and would be revealed in due course.
His deputy declares that any fair-minded person would not draw that conclusion, however I heard that interview and I (hopefully) am fair minded and from what was said I formed the clear opinion that legal advice had indeed been sought.
This bodes ill for the rest of the independence campaign. Already the SNP government has ignored the results of its own opinion polls regarding same-sex marriage and votes for 16- and 17-year-olds.
The many column inches devoted to whether Mr Salmond received legal advice on Scotland’s position in the EU mistakingly compares two separate issues.
The selective quoting from the interview with the BBC’s Mr Neil in March gives an untrue representation of what he, in fact, said.
The interview makes very clear that what Mr Salmond was talking about when reference was made to whether legal opinion had been sought from law officers was the issue of Scotland’s EU membership in terms of a “general debate”, and of the many eminent legal opinions offered.
Mr Salmond may be many things, but he is not a liar.
I decided to take the “fair-minded person” test as advocated by our Deputy First Minister. A quick search on YouTube allowed me to watch the Neil/Salmond interview in its entirety. No editing, no missing “27 words” – the entire interview.
I concluded that I would have to be an idiot to come away thinking anything other than the First Minister had taken advice from his law officers about the position of an independent Scotland remaining in the EU.
A word of advice to Mr Salmond – your pants are on fire.
The admission from the SNP government that it has never sought legal advice on whether an independent Scotland would be an automatic member of the EU is a staggering revelation.
Earlier this year, Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, told me that, after an exhaustive search of its files, not one of the 27 EU commissioners had been able to trace a letter from any Scottish Government ministers or officials seeking advice on Scotland’s position in the EU, post-independence.
Since then we have known that the SNP was misleading the people by pointing to advice from “eminent legal authorities” who insisted Scotland would be treated as a “succession state”, enjoying a smooth overnight transition to full EU membership as a new, sovereign nation.
Yet the fact that ministers have since spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to obscure the absence of formal, authoritative legal advice is unforgivable. It is obvious why the SNP has sought to avoid asking the hard questions all along.
Ministers have been crippled by the realisation that an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU and go through a tortuous accession process taking up to two years; that our farmers would face a lengthy hiatus during which they would receive no Single Farm Payments from Brussels; that our financial services sector would be left in limbo to await Scotland’s compulsory absorption into the beleaguered eurozone and that inward investment would come to a standstill as the prospect of new Border controls between Scotland and England loomed.
It is incredible SNP ministers would lead Scotland up the garden path in this way, basing their assurances on Scotland’s future as a full continuing member of the EU on assumptions and presuppositions, rather than hard facts.
Now that the government is getting round to requesting legal advice, the people of Scotland deserve to hear the unabridged content of any answers from Brussels without further delay, obfuscation or deception.
Conservative MEP for Scotland
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Friday 24 May 2013
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