On January 1, Denmark, Ireland and the UK celebrated 40 years of EU membership.
In Dublin the occasion coincided with the launch of Ireland's seventh EU presidency. Its ambitious programme includes implementing the EU's new economic governance rules, seeing through new banking union regulations and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy.
But for Scotland the Irish presidency provides a narrative and a vision of what could be achieved with independence: Ireland is setting the agenda for 500 million Europeans during the continent's toughest-ever financial crisis. A country smaller than Scotland but with more MEPs, its own Commissioner, its own seat at the top tables of Brussels and the power to influence the EU's policy direction for the next six months, chairing more than 1600 meetings across Europe.
Scotland could be doing this – advancing policy, leading in areas where we have expertise such as energy, climate change legislation, world-leading research and fisheries. Scotland's 40th EU anniversary has been celebrated by a speech from David Cameron pledging an in-out referendum on membership ("Prime Minister's in-out referendum on Europe", The Herald, January 23). It will mark the first phase of British EU withdrawal. The Prime Minister is in for a shock if he believes 26 member states will agree to special rules for Britain while the eurozone faces its toughest challenge since its creation.
EU membership has become the No campaign's biggest headache. Better Together in Britain but not so better together in Europe? It turns the EU debate on its head confirming that Westminster is the only threat to Scotland's EU membership. Will Britain still be in Europe in five years?
It seems 2014 will not only be about the future of Scotland in the Union, but about Scotland's place in the world. It will be a choice between a union of unequal partnership where inequality prevails and a union of sovereign states that work together for the greater good and compete against the rising global economies of China, India and Brazil.
2(4f2) Buccleuch Place,
There was sense in much of what David Cameron said about the need for reform in the European Union. Although senior European politicians have made it clear that cherry-picking – by the UK or any other member state – is not on the cards, there is scope for serious negotiation on important structural and political elements of the EU as it emerges from the euro crisis.
What is baffling is why the Prime Minister might believe the announcement of an in-out referendum will strengthen his hand in trying to achieve these reforms. Theodore Roosevelt's key to successful diplomacy was to speak softly, and carry a big stick. For Europeans tired of the UK's intransigence, the threat of a British exit is unlikely to constitute much more than a thin twig. The UK needs the EU far more than the EU needs the UK.
In fact the Prime Minister has committed us to an outrageous gamble, for reasons more concerned with his own and his party's future than the economic and political wellbeing of the United Kingdom.
Chairman, European Movement in Scotland,
12b Cumberland Street,
David Cameron's promise of an EU referendum is Westminster hypocrisy at its very worst.
Mr Cameron claimed the independence debate was too drawn-out: now he wants a four-year wait for a vote on the EU. He claimed the independence referendum would create uncertainty: now he wants to keep businesses in flux for a further four years or more. He claimed independence would jeopardise Scotland's EU membership: now he wants to push Scotland closer to the exit.
The independence referendum now takes on even greater significance. A No vote will lock Scotland into an increasingly insular, isolated Britain on the margins of Europe and at the mercy of Ukip-fuelled hysteria. The Union offers only a deeply uncertain, impotent future. The alternative – an independent, internationalist Scotland with its own seat at the top table and its own voice in the world – is attainable with a Yes vote in 2014.
17 Highfields, Dunblane.
Richard Mowbray is surely mistaken in asserting the likelihood of an EU referendum being held after the 2015 UK General Election and the possibility of the UK leaving the European Union "will do for the SNP" and produce a No vote in the independence referendum (Letters, January 15).
If, like me, most Scottish voters wish to remain part of the European Union, for all its faults, this will provide an extra incentive to vote for independence. Thus, we will be voting, not only for Scottish independence, but for remaining within the European Union. This will surely be preferable to remaining a very junior partner in the increasingly isolationist and right-wing UK.
43 Cecil Street, Glasgow.
Am I alone in wondering why the choice of the year 2014 for the referendum on Scotland's independence was criticised for not being soon enough, whereas the proposed referendum on the UK's union with Europe can wait until 2017?
39 Borthwick Drive,
It is ironic that an English politician, who not so long ago castigated the SNP over a two-year hiatus before a referendum citing economic uncertainty, should now propose an even longer, four-year hiatus before his own referendum.
John Scott Roy,
42 Galloway Avenue,
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