Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scotland and the EU

Alex Salmond in response to the accusation that he is a 'bare-faced liar' on his pronouncements on the legality of an independent Scotland's membership of the EU has suggested submitting himself to an independent inquiry on the matter, one of his own making.

 It's a bizarre turn of events, which I'll try and summarise as briefly and simply as possible. Presently Scotland as part of the UK is a member of the EU. Salmond and the SNP have been and are very pro-Europe so have suggested that membership of the EU post-independence would be a legal foregone conclusions. Probing by the opposition the exact nature of the legal advice he and his administration sought, to the point of submitting a Freedom of Information request, evoked a prevaricating response. The suspicion arose that the advice Salmond received was adverse but what now seems to be emerging is that they didn't actually seek any at all.

 While I can't claim I don't enjoy Salmond & Co. being made to feel uncomfortable when confronted with credible accusations that they have been economical with the truth, I think here the critics are missing the wider picture. It could be that I'm saying this because I lack the necessary legal knowledge to comment but what I think is happening here is that the implications of the SNP's 'Independence in Europe' theme that they plugged heavily prior to the Euro-crisis are only now beginning to make themselves felt in a post-crash world.

 I didn't agree with the Nationalists and their slogan but it did at least represent a cogent alternative to the Union. Why bother interacting with the increasingly important EU via Westminster when a small country like Scotland could do this directly? A Europe of regions sharing a common currency didn't look at all ridiculous before 2008. Then all the prosperous exemplar countries Salmond liked to cite as models of what Scotland could be began to cave in - Ireland here being the most frequently used case. Ah well, there's always the non-EU Norway and let's forget about Iceland for the time being. (Nationalists pick on exemplar countries in the way Tories do when they're banging on about education.) The point here is to note the degree of confusion at the heart of the Nationalist campaign. It's now no longer clear whether membership of the EU is the foregone conclusion the SNP said it was but at the same time, it is also now no longer clear whether this membership is desirable.

 It's difficult to answer the question of membership of the EU when the very nature of this international arrangement is in a state of flux, which is why if they'd had any sense, Salmond and Cameron could have agreed to park this question for a while. I get to the point when I don't know the answer myself. Europe doesn't look at all like a good prospect just now and I've never favoured the single currency but would I defend the Union even if it got to the point where withdrawing from the EU was a serious prospect?  I'm not so sure about that.

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