Why putting the EU ahead of Britain was 'gross dereliction' by Nicola Sturgeon - Brian Monteith

Imagine for a minute what it takes to unite not just Sinn Fein and the DUP, but also the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Ireland with them?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Not under duress you understand, not after negotiating a peace treaty after decades of brutal guerrilla warfare that killed thousands.

No, I’m asking how could these polar opposites come together spontaneously and instantaneously – without a second’s thought or arms being twisted – to join in condemning an announcement about border arrangements which some are now trying to excuse as a mere data gathering exercise?

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And how come, with these four people united in their condemnation, was there a complete shutdown of the normally vocal SNP high command, not least the First Minister herself?

In case you missed it, I write about that moment of political reality last Friday evening when the European Union announced it was invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

A hard border was to be erected between the six British counties of Ulster and the rest of Ireland when the EU had promised the Irish people, under open questioning in their own parliament, that no such thing would ever happen.

This momentous about-turn, this betrayal of the EU insisting any border infrastructure would threaten the Belfast peace agreement, was not because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that might require border checks, but because of a contractual dispute between the EU and AstraZeneca about the supply of vaccines.

The EU Commission feared that vaccines that AstraZeneca was contractually obliged to supply to Britain – and therefore Scotland – might be routed to the UK via Ireland to avoid any EU export ban that would deny Britain the vaccines it had paid for.

The DUP, Sinn Fein, the Irish Teasoich and the British Prime Minister were understandably outraged that after all the dire warnings around having physical borders, all the unsaid allusions to violence breaking out, the EU would not consult anyone, not even the Teasoich, nor apparently the Irish member of the EU Commission Mairead McGuinness, and create a border over a contract dispute.

A dispute that exposes the EU’s failure to manage the vaccine procurement quickly and efficiently.

That Britain had invested heavily and considerably more in vaccine research and delivery early on when the pandemic was confirmed, that it had declined to become involved in the EU’s vaccine programme for fear of it being overly bureaucratic and ponderous, that it had entered into contracts with vaccine developers ahead of the EU and was willing to pay more to extract a deal, and that Britain chose to use its new-found Brexit-instilled self-belief to use its own excellent medicines agency to adjudge vaccine approvals is all down to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Had Nicola Sturgeon had anything to do with those decisions, we would now be more than a month behind in vaccine delivery and families would be losing loved ones as a direct consequence.

In politics, especially when in power, making the wrong decisions can cost lives. Putting the EU before Britain, and as a consequence putting Brussels before Edinburgh, is in my estimation a gross dereliction of the First Minister’s duty to the Scottish people.

The First Minister should have joined in the universal condemnation of the EU. She should have sided with the politicians of all Ireland and, much as it would have choked her, she should have backed the British Prime Minister.

Instead of banging the table in outrage, she seemed largely content for Michael Russell to make a half-hearted display of support and retweet a post by Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill appealing for calm. (See editor’s note below)

By her uncritical stance, by her turning away from personally supporting the view of all Ireland and what would be in Scotland’s interests, Ms Sturgeon has turned the office of First Minister into that of Ambassador for the EU and Bute House into its diplomatic mission.

Imagine for a moment Britain was broken up, that in its pursuit of “independence in Europe”, despite all the rational reasons this would take at least a decade and a cost the Scottish people penury that they had not seen in their lifetimes, the SNP had managed to engineer Scotland joining the EU.

Meanwhile, with Britain remaining outside the EU, Scotland would be required to enter into a border arrangement for trade similar to that set up between Ireland and the UK – only with Scotland also having to obtain visa-free travel for the movement of people.

Then, without consulting the Scottish prime minister, the EU closed the border with England by its own decree. Independence? Really?

The SNP likes to criticise Labour (especially), Conservative and any other pro-UK parties of being nothing other than branch offices of British politics – but by her inactions in plain sight Ms Sturgeon has shown the SNP is now little more than a Brussels branch office – putting the faceless bureaucrats before the Scottish people.

Stand up for Scotland? More like get into bed with Brussels.

Is that what Scottish independence looks like? Is that what Scots want? Being dismissed to becoming a mere colony of Brussels? Scotland has more influence in Britain – and shall always have – than it can ever hope to obtain in the EU.

It is one thing to aspire to Scottish membership of the EU if it were a mere trading arrangement, but since the Treaty of Maastricht it has become about building a country called the EU.

It is delusional to believe subjugating Scotland to Brussels does not take away any potential gains of separation and hand them over to technocrats whose dream is of Europe as one nation state and the reduction of Scotland to a mere region.

Ms Sturgeon is effectively on the Brussels payroll.

- Brian Monteith is a former member of the Scottish and European Parliaments.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to reflect remarks by Michael Russell in which he said the Scottish government supported the UK and Irish governments’ position over the EU’s subsequently withdrawn threat to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol

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