ALEX Salmond has written to the Prime Minister accusing him of damaging Scotland’s interests in Europe and “blundering” into the controversial move to veto European Union treaty changes.
But the First Minister came under fire from a leading Tory MSP for refusing to say whether an independent Scotland would have signed the controversial treaty imposing strict budgetary rules on eurozone nations.
Meanwhile, Iain McMillan, the director of CBI Scotland, insisted the Prime Minister had blocked the treaty to prevent “damage” to the UK’s financial sector and protect jobs and business north and south of the Border.
Mr Salmond, in the strongly worded letter to David Cameron, said Scotland has been “shut out of the room” as he attacked the Prime Minister’s decision to change the UK’s “entire relationship” with the EU without consulting the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The First Minister said Scotland was “crucially affected” by key EU decisions, but the UK had “excluded” itself from the process that would “impact directly” on its jobs and businesses.
Mr Salmond demanded an “urgent meeting” of the joint ministerial committee of the devolved administrations and the UK government to discuss the veto, which he suggested had been made by Mr Cameron without a “risk assessment” of the impact on Scottish jobs and key business sectors, such as financial services and fishing.
The SNP leader’s letter to the Prime Minister came as former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown claimed Mr Cameron had bolstered the case for Scottish independence by “strengthening the hand of Mr Salmond to create an argument for Scotland to leave Britain” and become a separate member state.
Mr Salmond, who has just returned from a week-long trade mission to China, said: “It is an extraordinary state of affairs that, while the Scottish Government and our agencies were working hard to promote Scotland’s interests and industries in China, David Cameron was blundering into apparently changing the UK’s entire relationship with the European Union – without even discussing it with his own Lib Dem coalition colleagues, never mind the devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
“Given that David Cameron took it upon himself to isolate the UK in Europe – from non-euro and the euro members alike – and without a word of consultation, he now needs to answer six key questions about the implications for Scotland of what he has done.
“As the price of playing to his own back-benchers, the Prime Minister now leads a riven administration – with zero credibility in EU negotiations across the range of policy areas where Scotland’s interests are crucially affected.
“Last week’s developments in Brussels demonstrate that Scotland urgently needs a voice at the top table when our vital national interests are being discussed, by becoming an independent member state, instead of being shut out of the room.”
However, the First Minister’s spokesman refused to answer the question of whether an independent Scotland would seek to renegotiate Mr Cameron’s veto and join the other 26 EU nations in the new accord.
Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said: “Alex Salmond has said nothing about what he’d do in the European Union if Scotland was independent and is displaying continuing arrogance by taking this line.
“David Cameron stood up for Scotland and the UK during the talks in Brussels, whereas Alex Salmond would have laid down before the European pressure.
“This is typical grandstanding from Alex Salmond, who has said practically nothing about Europe during his time in office, revealing just one of many questions he has yet to answer about what an independent Scotland would look like.”
Lord Ashdown said Mr Cameron has made a “catastrophically bad move” by blocking changes to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty at last week’s summit, arguing the proposed changes were not in the UK’s interest.
Mr Salmond’s spokesman seized on Lord Ashdown’s attack on the Tory-led coalition’s European stance to claim the decision to veto the treaty was a “powerful illustration” of the need for Scotland to split from the UK.
But Scottish Lib Dem president Malcolm Bruce dismissed the claim, saying an independent Scotland would be “a complete irrelevance” in Europe and that Scotland’s negotiating position in Europe under independence would be “weak to non- existent”.
Mr Bruce, a senior Scottish Lib Dem MP, said the SNP “don’t even know which currency it would use” in an independent Scotland.
In his letter, Mr Salmond demanded that the Prime Minister answer a raft of questions about the controversial treaty decision, including whether the government had completed a “risk assessment” about “the likely impact of its veto on attracting investment into Scotland and the UK”.
The First Minister suggested Scotland would be disadvantaged during key EU negotiations about finance, fisheries and agriculture, by being represented in Europe by a UK government that he insisted had “isolated itself”.
There was also a request for talks involving the Scottish and UK governments to discuss the “full implications of the treaty decision”, which Mr Salmond said had been taken without consulting the Prime Minister’s coalition colleagues.
Meanwhile, CBI Scotland’s director said the Prime Minister’s stance in Brussels had prevented the UK’s financial centre from being “weakened” by the treaty – Mr Cameron had been demanding “safeguards” over protection of the single market and the UK’s financial services industry.
Mr McMillan said: “The intention of the Prime Minister in behaving as he did was to avoid the migration of jobs and businesses from London to Frankfurt. Clearly, he was desperately worried that some aspects of the new treaty would damage financial centres like London and Edinburgh.
“It’s most unfortunate that Germany and France were not able to give ground.
“I’ve no doubt that the Prime Minister took the red lines to Brussels to ensure that our financial services were not put at a disadvantage by the new treaty. David Cameron intended to defend the City of London and its position as the financial centre of Europe, and if he had allowed Germany and France to have their way, it would have weakened the City.”
Mr McMillan went on to call for some kind of “compromise” between the EU’s member states over the treaty, adding that “these disputes in Europe normally get resolved”.
He said: “I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this and hopefully cool heads from the different countries can reach a compromise, as it’s not in Britain’s or Europe’s interest for this to continue.”
On the constitutional question, Aidan O’Neill, one of Scotland’s leading QCs, said an independent Scotland would automatically “retain” EU membership, as it was already a de-facto part of Europe through the UK.
He said: “All Scots would retain EU citizenship if Scotland became independent.”
A Downing Street spokesman said the UK government would respond to the First Minister’s letter about the treaty in “due course”.
• Six of the best: Alex Salmond’s questions to the Prime Minister
1 What risk assessment, if any, did the UK government undertake of the likely impact of its veto decision on investment into Scotland and the UK, and on negotiations affecting key Scottish industries such as agriculture, fishing, and financial services – where qualified majority voting already applies?
2 What assessment, if any, was made of how Scotland’s interests will be affected in the EU by being represented by a UK government that is excluded from important decision-making meetings, which will impact directly on Scotland?
3 Given the serious impact of a UK treaty veto, why did you not consult with the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations on the use of an option which Mrs Thatcher and John Major in their negotiations both managed to avoid?
4 Can you confirm the reports in the Italian and UK press that you told the new Italian prime minister that your negotiating stance was based on the “big internal problems” you would face if you had agreed to the treaty change?
5 With key negotiations ongoing concerning the EU budget, agriculture and fisheries, how do you believe that the important Scottish interests involved will be affected by being represented by a UK member state which has isolated itself?
6 Will you agree to an urgent meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, involving all four of the UK administrations, so that the full implications of your decision can be considered?