Confusion over our place in Europe
The row over Alex Salmond’s dissembling is important. However, even worse than misleading the public is his reckless disregard for reality. He leads a party which has campaigned for many years for Scotland’s independence in Europe and sought a referendum on independence.
Now it emerges that he has not taken legal advice on the whole basis of his campaign – independence in Europe. Recently the Spanish press has carried extensive coverage of Scotland’s referendum in 2014. Artur Mas, the president of Catalonia, seeks the same for the Catalans, and the Basques also cite it as a precedent.
The Spanish government, fearful of the secession of its two most economically powerful regions, is implacably opposed to such referenda. The strong indications are that Spanish ministers would use their veto to prevent Scottish accession setting a precedent for Spain’s regions.
Instead of honestly discussing these issues, and whether a solution might be found, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon take refuge in a fantasy world where they make up their version of reality as they go along.
The actions are bad enough, but even worse is to spend years campaigning for “independence in Europe” without having obtained specific legal advice on if and how this might come about. Far from standing up for Scotland, they are an embarrassment to Scotland.
Unlike Bill Jamieson (Perspective, 25 October), I always found it hard to believe that Alex Salmond had received advice from lawyers on the position of Scotland within the European Union after independence. On the contrary, I would have been very surprised if he had.
As a former Scottish Executive representative in Brussels (2005-6) and a former senior official in the UK representation to the EU (1990-94) it has always been clear to me that Scotland will have to negotiate its relationship with the EU if it leaves the UK.
The European treaties do not provide for the situation arising when part of a member state secedes from that state. It follows that whatever is to happen will need to be agreed unanimously by all member states.
I am reasonably sure that most member states would be happy to welcome Scotland into the EU. I am equally sure that few, if any, would be prepared to grant special concessions – whether on the euro, immigration, competition policy, fisheries, structural funds etc – to allow that to happen on the basis hoped for by the Scottish Government. Some, notably Spain, as we see, would be firmly opposed in the light of the precedent created.
It may well be that a deal could be done – but on what terms and at what price cannot currently be foreseen by anyone, even the UK government or the European Commission.
Dumfries and Galloway
Struan Stevenson and others (Letters, 25 October) question whether the SNP has had legal advice on whether an independent Scotland would automatically be a member of the EU.
Many lawyers, and others, have offered opinion and advice on this topic. The late Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh, later an SNP member of the European Parliament, gave his opinion on this.
He certainly did this orally, though I do not know whether he put it in a formal, written legal form. In this sense, clearly the SNP had legal advice.
Now we are to get formal written legal opinion from the law officers of the Scottish Government. Are we arguing about the meaning of the words “legal advice”?
Wanted: suitably qualified lawyer (previous practical experience not necessary) to provide a government with independent, unbiased legal advice, which unequivocally states that a newly independent Scotland would not be required to re-apply for European Union membership, or be obliged to join the euro single currency.
Descent from a titled family would be advantageous, for such advice could then be claimed, truthfully, to come from an “eminent” source. Apply: A Salmond, Holyrood, Edinburgh.
A LIE is a lie is a lie, as Dorothy Parker might have put it, and I see no vulgarity in naming it as such (Alan Clayton’s letter, 25 October).
Most of us do not live in the rarefied atmosphere that seems to surround Mr Clayton although, to give him his due, he does concede that Labour was making a legitimate point regarding the massive dent in Alex Salmond’s political credibility.
How many of us, when someone we know commits a falsehood, describe it as a “terminological inexactitude”.
As I delved further into my Scotsman, I came across your obituary and tribute on the untimely, sad passing of Michael Marra and was particularly struck by a quotation from his song I Am Shirley McKie which is acutely apposite at the present time and warns any First Minister that honesty can only be encouraged by example.
John R Murdoch
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