Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who are the separatists now? Take Britain out of Europe and you can take Scotland out of the UK

David Cameron's decision to take the UK out of Europe will take Scotland out of the UK.  The Prime Minister's use of the veto against the EU treaty on budgetary reform looks like the game-changer that the SNP leader Alex Salmond has been waiting for.   Attachment to the Union in Scotland is likely to evaporate as Scots realise that they have become an appendage to an essentially isolationist England with a sceptic media saturated with an ugly chauvinism. The hostility shown towards European nations is like a bad version of the hostility that old school Scottish nationalists used to show towards England. Only they grew out of it. 

  David Cameron's narrow nationalism, putting the interests of the City of London above those of resolving the EU budget crisis, has fatally undermined the moral case for sticking with Britain.  If the UK is now a Banker's Union, dedicated to protecting the privileges a delinquent financial elite, what price internationalism, democracy, social welfare or any of the values that were supposed to define the common British project?

The SNP has suffered greatly in the past from accusations that it is a "separatist" party, seeking selfishly to divide the UK, and pit nation against nation.  But who are the separatists now?

  The argument for sticking with Britain was always that this gave Scotland representation at the highest levels of decision-making in Europe.  This is clearly no longer the case.  The UK is marginalised in Europe, whatever the Prime Minister may say - a "union" of one against 26.  This isolation is the culmination of decades of revanchist anti-Europeanism,  which has coincided with the decline in popular attachment to the symbols of Britishness on both sides of the border. 

   As England turns in on itself, lapsing into a financial parochialism, Scotland turns out - seeking to rediscover in Europe the communitarian values that it believed underpinned the UK.  The SNP used to be criticised for demanding "Scotland's Oil", for seeking to grasp the nation's natural resources for itself.  Well, Scotland gave the oil away, and now finds that it was used, not for the common good, but to build an evil empire of greed.  It surely won't get fooled again. 


 From Sunday Herald 11/12/11

 So, Scotland – in or out of the euro? It might seem a daft question to ask when the very future of the European Single Currency is in doubt. But that hasn't stopped people asking it. Danny Alexander, the UK Treasury Secretary, in a speech on Friday demanded to know whether Scotland would be in or out, saying that the “deafening silence” from the SNP on the euro was “deeply damaging” to Scotland's economy. Margaret Curran MP, Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary, weighed in pointing out that “If a separate Scotland did use sterling, we would be in the weakened position of using a currency over which we had given up all influence and control”.

She has a point. How could it be in Scotland's national interest to remain in a sterling currency union which is shaped in the interest of the South East of England? Mind you, that is rather the case with Scotland at the present time, as the Nationalists see it. They regard keeping the pound as a temporary measure until such time as Scotland can have a debate and referendum on the euro. At least, that was the line before the Great Split. For, the extraordinary events of the past few days mean that the whole debate about Europe has been turned on its head.

David Cameron's decision to use his veto in Europe in order to protect the bankers of the City of London from financial regulation by Europe has altered the course of history - though no one is quite sure yet in what direction. In the early hours of Friday morning, Britain showed its hand; and Europe called its bluff. Rather than abandon a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions, and drop other measures to curb the excesses of investment bankers, Europe effectively showed Britain the door. And David Cameron walked straight out of it. Britain remains a member of the European Union, of course, but without any power or influence over what happens to it. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Britain is now more remote from the core of Europe than at any time since the referendum on Europe 36 years ago. There a momentum toward disengagement that looks unstoppable. David Cameron will now be under intense pressure from the 100 or so eurosceptic Tory MPs who are demanding that he hold a referendum on renegotiating British membership – a euphemism for detaching Britain from the European Union altogether. The PM promised he would call one if there were any significant changes to the Treaties or to Britain's relationship with the EU. There are profoundly significant changes taking place and that suggests that a referendum will be extremely hard to avoid.

This poses interesting questions for Mr Alexander. There has also been a deafening silence from the pro-European Liberal Democrats in the coalition over the prospect of Britain effectively leaving Europe.David Cameron has not just rejected the eurozone, he has taken this country to the outer fringe of Europe, where he will reside in splendid isolation with the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, who has recently introduced forced Labour camps, called the “Goulash Archipelago”. to deal with the unemployed. I can't see Nick Clegg – lifelong supporter, not only of the European Union, but also of the euro – being able to put up with that for long.

If David Cameron holds a referendum on renegotiating British membership of the EU, the Coalition partnership between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats will be over. It may be over anyway, because the consequences of isolation in Europe will place intense strains on the Liberal Democrats. The City of London may be laughing all the way to the bank, but British manufacturing industry is desperately worried about Britain excluding itself from decision-making in the European Single Market. Even Margaret Thatcher, the godmother of euroscepticism, always insisted that Britain had to be represented in Europe, and that the “empty chair” policy meant UK interests going by default. Nicolas Sarkozy has made absolutely clear that Britain cannot remain as a non-member of the club telling it what to do

Britain is now the Iceland of Europe – the most highly indebted country in the world with a delinquent banking sector – in self-imposed isolation. Where will Scotland stand on that? It seems plain to me that Scotland's interests may no longer lie with sticking with the pound if that means begin excluded from Europe. The SNP always said that Scotland should have a “seat at the top table” , now it doesn't have a seat in the building because the UK has decided to head for the exit. In such circumstances, an independent Scotland might listen with interest to overtures from the rest of the European Union to become an independent nation at the heart of Europe – now that England has made its excuses and left.

The idea, put about by Labour MPs, that Scotland would be denied entry to Europe, even as England leaves it, is revealed as unalloyed nonsense. In its present mood, there's nothing Europe would like more than to see the UK disintegrate and for Scotland to join the euro. I am pretty sure that Scotland would be given membership at a very reasonable rate. The new country would also be offered generous financial incentives, possibly even a derogation on corporation tax, to smooth its entry. And as a petro currency, might benefit Scotland considerably, because currencies based on natural resources like oil have a habit of appreciating rapidly, thus making exports uncompetitive. Linked, at a favourable rate, to the euro, Scotland would not face that problem.

Danny Alexander's suggestion that an independent Scotland would become one of the the 'poor men of Europe' like Greece, suffering permanent deflation, debt crises is as economically illiterate as it is offensive. Scotland would more likely become one of the many prosperous small states of northern Europe, joining countries like Holland and Finland. Assuming Europe survives, that is. Given the current state of confusion and uncertainty, and with the economy collapsing into what looks like a depression, it is perhaps facile to speculate about any future for the euro. But what is not in doubt is that Britain is on its way out, and that cannot but have profound implications for Scotland. As Der Spiegel put it: “Aufwiedersehn, England”.


Anonymous said...

I think the opposite is true, if Cameron sticks with the sensible plan to distance the UK from the rest of the European Union, then the UK Union becomes more important and relevant in everyone's mind except Alex Salmonds.

Alex Salmond will be worried about this because although he may be a Europhile, most Scots could see it far enough so the action which Cameron took last week actually makes independence a more distant prospect :)

Gaavster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gaavster said...

Excellent article Iain, however, I would contest that this particular incident was the game changer....

The game has been changing for a long time and it hasn't got too far to go, I suggest, until it reaches it's natural end point and we are living in two very different societies on these isles

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks this last week strengthens the UK is living in lala land. Witness the desperation with which unionist commentators have sought to portray the SNP on the back foot, when it is Cameron who has screwed up.
Salmond does not need to define what he would have done in Cameron's shoes because Salmond would not be in Cameron's shoes. The First Minister would have gone to Brussels with a different set of requirements and thus would have had a different set of outcomes.
A great week to be a supporter of Independence.

Anonymous said...

This is laughable. You seek to portray Camerons decision as narrow parochial little englander-ism. Cue scary music. And Scotland as a country reaching out to our brothers in Europe. Cue a soaring symphony of hope!

Your entire blog is an exercise in generalisation. You don't even touch upon the specifics. The well documented precedents of Tobin taxation, the tax take from the financial sector, the absence of any replacement for the million jobs it creates. No it's just a cabal of evil bankers. About 20 of them I suppose. We're teetering on the edge of the debt abyss. That requires people to do sums before making choices. Get out your calculator.

oldnat said...

Clearly this person called Anonymous varies between opposed extremes on the constitutional question! Must be a Lib-Dem?

However, Scotland's constitutional future won't be decided by the 38% who support independence, or the 22% who are opposed to any further transfer of powers to Scotland, but by the 38% who are currently in favour of “Devo-Max/Indy-Lite” but want to continue some UK link (figures from Ipsos-MORI).

I have a suspicion that Iain would probably be part of the last of these. If his opinions are mirrored by others, then the UK Union is doomed in it's present form, and it would take statesmanship from Westminster to salvage something from the wreckage.

Cameron's abilities as a politician, much less a statesman, seem remarkably deficient.

Anonymous said...

You are right Iain, this could be the game changer. The monetary penalty for Cameron's crassness, to UK manufacturing industry (us who make things & contribute to the GDP ken) dealing with the rest of Europe can never be calculated, but it will be huge. Attitudes harden and knife-edge deals fall through.

The PM's "celebratory" dinner with anti-European MPs at chequers at the weekend said it all, what an insult in such belt-tightening times?

The belts would be tightening at Chequers, but through stomach expansion.

Iain Mackenzie

Bobelix said...

My feeling is that, yes, this gives the SNP plentiful ammunition to attack Cameron's illogicality re the "Big Table" argument against Independence. However, I don't see the post-Independence discussion as being automatically a question of EC membership on current or re-negotiated terms. As a long-time EC advocate, recent developments have shaken my certainty as to the direction in which that conglomerate of nations is heading. I'm also not convinced that Scots are as enthusiastic about the enterprise as they were - they certainly don't proceed from the xenophobic base that many Tories do, but it doesn't necessitate a right-wing view to recognise the problems of the Eurozone. Many SNP-supporting friends and colleagues have begun to express reservations to me. Also on the table is the notion of an enlarged EFTA-type Northern Economic Zone which would bestow many of the advantages of the EC without some of the more dubious obligations. At the very least, the existence of that as an alternative could be used to bargain a much better deal for Scotland in Europe. If the Euro were finally proven to be soundly-based, and our entry point did not threaten exports, I'd be in favour. Till that day, or if we decide to enter a Northern Economic Zone instead, I favour our own currency, not sterling. Bring back the Merk!

H Scott said...

The more hostile the Conservatives are to the EU the more contradictory will be their scaremongering that an independent Scotland would have to apply for EU membership.

Clootie (Newsnet) said...

It is simply double standards. If the Union agrguement is valid then Europe is valid. If you do not want to surrender power and financial control to a "central body" then you support Independence. You cannot use both arguements at the same time - not even the LibDems would attempt that!

CWH said...

Clootie (Newsnet) said...
"It is simply double standards..... You cannot use both arguements at the same time - not even the LibDems would attempt that!"

Oh yes they would!

The LibDems favourite position: Astride the fence sitting on the pointy bit.

Edward Harkins said...

I still cannot take seriously the contradictory a
rgument of the likes of the first anonymous here (yet another anon). As other subsequent comments point out, there is a fundamental flaw at the heart of the Unionist argument that Scotland must not be independent of the rest of the Union within the UK but that the UK ‘must’ be independent of the largest Union that is the EU.

Iain is right that the Cameron calculation is a game changer. To repeat what I posted elsewhere:

IMO the fall-out from David Cameron’s EU summit farrago is going to be profound for many aspects of the UK and its governance and civic cohesion.

This will include, IMO, a direct impact on Scottish sentiment around further independence from Westminster.

It is literally astonishing that the ineptness and self-regarding calculation of the Conservative Coalition UK Government got them into the position of balancing the entire future prosperity and stability of the UK within Europe against the interests of the City of London - and decided in favour of the City of London.

After all we have learned about the City of London and it's institutions and the financial services headquartered in the City of London, and the inter-generation permanent damage they have inflicted upon the UK economy, we are to caste our entire national lot in with them once again?

Incredible, just incredible - as many of the SAcottish electorate may conclude.

Anonymous said...

We can also see that Ed Miliband is wholly incapable of holding the Coalition government to account.

Old Blue Eyes said...

Personally as an Englishman I hope you get your independence just as I hope we get ours from the EU. We have been subsidizing both you lot and the EU for far too long. It would be like all our Christmases coming all at once.

Old Blue Eyes said...

Oh and while I'm at it would Mr Harkins like to tell me where the headquarters of the biggest bank disaster of the lot was situated. I refer of course to the Royal Bank of Scotland led by that pillar of probity, the Scotsman, Sir Fred Goodwin egged on by his fellow countryman and the worst Prime Minister we have ever had, Gordon Brown.

mantis55 said...

What a shame. A Load of well-reasoned arguments and then along comes a Sun reader........

Vronsky said...

It isn't a game changer. It might be another little straw on the camel's back, but that's all. Scots (yourself not least, Iain) have remained obstinately tied to the Union for long after there were ponderous bodies of evidence that it was a seriously bad idea - socially, politically, economically and (not least) morally. Amazingly though, I think the marriage will have to get a bit worse yet before we go to the lawyers.

SNP enthusiasm for the EU originated back in the days when the EU wasn't much more than something sensible called the EEC, seemingly an innocent and safe idea. Of course from an SNP point of view it was rather handy that it could be used as a defence against right-wing yelps that independence was 'isolationism' and thus the 'Scotland Independent in Europe' tagline was born. But back then, rule from Brussels looked better than rule from London because almost anything would. It's a closer race now - asked to decide which was the more corrupt oligarchy between Brussels and London, I wouldn't know how to answer - I want shot of both of them. I'm an old-fashioned leftie and I'm sad that this position is so often portrayed as right-wing.

You're right that Cameron is simply protecting his paymasters in the banks, but the fact that pond life like Cameron doesn't want the EU doesn't make the EU a good thing - our enemy's enemy is not necessarily etc. etc.

I'd be more for this:


Edward Harkins said...

Mantis55, yes we do get em don’t we? ;-)

I tell you what, I don’t agree with what Vrosnky said, but he can at least string a decent, reasoned and non-abusive alternative comment together.

Onwards and upwards…

Ian Innes said...

'He who pays the piper calls the tune'

(1) 'The City now provides half of all Tory party funding'. (Guardian, Tues 13th December)

(2) 'Cameron cuts UK adrift. PM uses veto in order to protect the City.' (Guardian, Sat 10th December)

Conflate the two and many could be excused for concluding that we have just witnessed the final act of what can be described as a 'Political Coup' by the City of London mandarins with the present government acting the trojan horse.

The implications for us at street level unfolding daily.

But if being forewarned is to be forearmed,then that forewarning was headlined in the Guardian dated 24th March 2008, which read 'Ministers back radical plan for voting reform.' It went on to say 'The proposals outlined by government 'would improve the legitimacy of the House of Commons at Westminster.'

The government of the day, under Westminster PM Gordon Brown, did nothing to implement the proposals.

Going back to 1976 Lord Hailsham, the then Lord Chancellor, expressed his disquiet in the Richard Dimbleby lecture of that year thus:

'We live in an elective dictatorship, absolute in theory, if hitherto thought tolerable in practice.

How far it is still tolerable is the question... the checks and balances, which in practice, used to prevent abuse, have now disappeared...placing all effective powers in the hands of one of them the Prime Minister.'

We in Scotland live in a fledgling Representative Democracy, whereas the predominantly English House of Commons, at westminster, is a Parliamentary Democracy; quite different from Holyrood and, democratically, much inferior and open to abuse, as the MPs Expenses Scandal underlined.

And more recently the unhealthy relationship which developed over the years between No10, the police and the newspaper barons.

I look forward to Scotland becoming a Nation State within the world community of like inter-dependent Nation States.

At this point in time we risk our democratic credentials being sullied by the reputation of our near neighbour.

Jo G said...

Thanks for a great post Vronsky. Totally agree with you. If we find it suffocating being controlled from London why would we want the same from Brussels?

Edward Harkins said...

First, I’m sticking to the game change version about Cameron’s farago (that, with hindsight, is becoming more and more discernible as having been a seat-of-the-pants device to placate Tory Eurosceptics and the City of London). I note that Lorraine Davidson of The Times on BBC News Night Scotland said of it all:

“We’re right to be very excited by that… What David Cameron has set in motion has potentially the capability of changing the nature of the constitutional debate in Scotland. If you’re one of the two thirds of Scots who are unconvinced of the merits of Independence, the chances are that this is based on the belief that you like being part of the UK, the firepower of the UK and the status that gives you of European, the World stage. If suddenly you find that the UK is led by somebody with a sort of Little Englander mentality whose going over to Brussels and sitting on the sidelines, suddenly that doesn’t seem like such an attractive proposition.”

Second, on the fear of dictatorship from London being replaced by dictatorship from Brussels – we need beware of perpetuating the near-hysterical anti-EU propaganda thrown up by the UK right wing printed media. For example, let’s recall that the EU never did intend to ban ‘British’ sausages as one point (instructive is it not, that much of that right wing media is subject of non UK, non-European, ownership).

For the UK Westminster establishment the problem with the EU was not that it lacked a full democratic remit, or was a bureaucratic dictatorship. Rather, the problem for that establishment was that it saw the EU elites taking decisions that it did not agree with – for one thing the EU wanted to develop a European model of social democratic economies, and not to just slavishly follow the Anglo-USA model.

That Anglo-USA model is now bust and in disrepute. The EU model, however, is also in serious difficulty now that it is attempting to remedy a catastrophic situation without any true democratic mandate. Quite frankly, no one can have much idea of what may come about long before either a referendum, or independence. Scotland’s well-wishers are best advised to keep an alert and adaptive mind as to what challenges and risks and opportunities arise.

One thing is certain – sitting ‘alone-and-yet-in’ the EU, in Little Englander mode, is no place to be during the momentous events that will be unfolding.

I’d bet two of Iain’s Scottish pounds that:

1. The UK elites are right now working at conniving at how they can most effectively and destructively play a destabilising role in the EU (in order that any ensuing disunity among all the other members of the EU can be argued, no matter at what cost, as having proved David Cameron ‘right’)
2. There will be permanent damage to the standing of the UK in the EU, and therefore in the World; the question for Scotland then becomes does it want to be part of those damaged goods?

Ian Innes said...

'With friends like PM Cameron, who needs enemies'

Westminster PM, Edward Heath, back in the early 1970s, was so desparate to get the UK into the European Economic Community (EEC) he agreed to the community's demand that the rich fishing grounds around Scotland be opened to all the countries of the existing EEC club.

With no parliament of our own at that time Scottish interests could be conveniently ignored. And were!

With access to Scotland's territorial waters conceded the deal allowing the UK to join the EEC went through the House of Commons.

Peterhead, Wick, Mallaig and other communities dependent on the sea for their livelyhoods was considered a price worth paying.

Fast forward to the discussions that have just been concluded on fish quotas into the future and again we find that the legitimate interests of the Scottish fishing industry and the communities that rely on it have been largely ignored.

It is surely time to concede that the political construct which passes as the United Kingdom no longer exists.

With its own parliament Scotland now has a voice and that voice must be predominant where the vital interests of Scotland are at stake.

Anonymous said...

'Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past risk repeating them'

If there was a 'Celtic Spring' its blossoming, it might be argued, can be traced to the period leading up to the 1918 general election and the results of the election itself. When the movement 'Sinn Fein' won nearly all of the seats.

They did not, however, take up their seats at Westminster and on Jan 1919 declared Ireland for the Irish.

The war of independence that followed was finally brought to an end and a treaty signed in 1921.

Under this the Irish Free State was set up and given the same rights within the British Commonwealth as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. The northeastern counties, however, remained part of the United Kingdom.

The Repulic of Ireland finally gained its independence in 1949 and withdrew from the commonwealth.

The breakup of the United Kingdom had begun.

There are arguably parallels that can be drawn between the events nearly a hundred years ago in Ireland and what is happening here in Scotland at the present time.

Like the Irish republicans of a hundred years ago, on the 5th May this year the Scottish Nationalists were returned to power with an unassailable majority, following four years as a minority administration.

And while the new administration has been exploring all the options for encouraging growth in the Scottish economy, every action or decision eminating from Westminster seems to be designed to have the contrary effect.

Eg (1) The windfall tax on Scotland's oil and gas sector which will cost an estimated 15000 jobs.

(2) The cancellation of the carbon capture technology trials.

(3) The prohibitive transmission charges imposed on Scotland's green energy producers can only be seen as a deliberate attempt to make them less competitive compared with the producers south of the border who are subsidised.

(4)Scotland's government is constrained in areas such as borrowing powers and investment.

What is being waged against Scotland can only be described as 'economic warfare'. And like the conventional war England waged against Ireland it to will fail.

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