I have been following the SNP's thrashings about on Europe with considerable interest ("Sturgeon calls for talks on EU after Barroso rebuff", The Herald, December 11 & Letters, December 11, 12).
The view held by most people in the know is that Scotland would have to reapply for EU membership while the Rest of the UK would remain in membership.
We can engage in interesting technical, legal disputes about the application or otherwise of the Treaty of Union but I suspect Jose Manuel Barroso and his colleagues would tremble at the hornets' nest of reopening historical treaties from an age when Europe was forming. Their response is therefore a pragmatic one. Equally we should recognise that it is very likely Scotland would be admitted, though not with salivating enthusiasm. The admission of another heavily indebted entity with a budget position only sustainable through oil revenue is not necessarily the most attractive of prospects.
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The issue is the terms on which Scotland would be admitted. Without knowing these terms, statements such as Scotland would maintain sterling post-independence are quite impossible to make. Many of the Nationalists' broad, confident statements rest on sand. The EU cannot be seen to take a position and the SNP can have no foundation in predicting what that position will be.
A Nationalist picture of First Minister Alex Salmond gripping Angela Merkel in a bone-crushing handshake while dictating Scotland's terms is one of the more risible Nationalist images. We will be told by the EU their conditions. It will be up to us to accept. Negotiation will be at the margin.
Why did this car crash happen? Why has the SNP spent five years thinking no-one would notice this huge problem? It has been hidden away with fingers crossed hoping no-one would mention it. Five years in which the SNP could have been preparing a game plan for this have gone and the party is fast running out of time. One can only conclude it is down to a lack of confidence in its own case and a fear of confronting the highly complex issues that true independence throws up.
On every issue raised, from Nato membership to currency to Europe, the SNP closes down discussion by saying nothing will change. A vote for independence seems to me to resemble a vote for a Little Britain. What is the point of that?
West Newington House,
10 Newington Road, Edinburgh.
If I were seeking impartial advice on whether an independent Scotland would remain a member of the European Union or would have to beg on bended knee to be admitted as a new state, the last people I would ask would be Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, despite their exalted positions in the EU.
Both have a separate agenda because of major problems in their own home countries – in Spain the increasing demand in Catalonia for independence, and in Belgium the deep and irreconcilable division between Walloons and Flemish which has rendered the Belgian government almost powerless. No wonder these two European autocrats fear Scotland becoming independent and remaining a member of the EU.
The real question we should ask is not whether we should have automatic membership of the European Union on independence. It is: why should an independent Scotland even want to be a small member of a huge group of 28 disparate countries, dominated by Germany and France, with massive economic, currency and fiscal problems which it seems unable to solve, an elected parliament with very limited democratic authority and powers, and a massive and growing bureaucracy which is hugely extravagant and inefficient?
Does Scotland want to make an annual financial contribution of about £850 million to the ever-increasing EU budget (our present share of the UK payment)? Do we want Brussels to continue to impose its ludicrous Fisheries Protection Policy, which has seriously damaged our own fishing industry, while allowing Spanish factory ships into Scottish waters to hoover up vast quantities of available stocks?
Do we want to be forced to introduce more obscure regulations into our own perfectly adequate Scots Law, and continue to support over half of the EU budget being spent on the nonsensical Common Agricultural Policy to subsidise inefficient small French farmers?
Yes, our own farming industry would lose out its share of this largesse, but that could easily be replaced by what we would save in annual membership fees to the European club.
Would Scotland not be better joining Norway and Switzerland in the European Free Trade Organisation (EFTA), which enjoys almost all of the benefits of trading within Europe and suffers none of the above problems?
Could we please have a proper debate about all these matters?
Iain AD Mann,
7 Kelvin Court,
There is considerable confusion (in Brussels and London) about the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom and the difference between secessionist and successor states.
When Czechoslovakia ceased to exist the Czech Republic and Slovakia inherited its obligations (from debts to treaty obligations), its assets and liabilities. In 1919 Ireland seceded with no obligations (including national debt).
What is Scotland's status? Is it a necessary part of the UK or is it (as Jose Manuel Barroso and Michael Moore suggest) a region of something else? Great Britain exists by a treaty signed by two sovereign states ratified by their parliaments. If the UK exists after Scotland leaves then Scotland is a secessionist state. But it would have no liabilities (national debt), and would not be in the EU (citizenship of individuals might be another matter) or Nato.
The military bases and other assets (including oil and gas reserves) would simply be lost to the rump state (UK of England, Wales and Northern Ireland?). But, if there are two successor states (Scotland and England/Wales/Northern Ireland) then they would inherit the obligations (EU and Nato membership) of the now-defunct state and negotiate over assets and liabilities.
Mr Barroso and Mr Moore see Scotland as (only) part of the UK but they should beware. Should Scotland become a secessionist state it could leave without any debt, nuclear free, with considerable oil and gas reserves, the richest fisheries in Europe (closed to the EU), with no need to negotiate over the assets (versus liabilities) physically in Scotland.
Scotland and England are equal parts of Great Britain, which does not exist otherwise. Those who want Scotland debt-free, non-nuclear, non-Nato might like Mr Barroso and Mr Moore's position. An EU keen to secure the fisheries would face secessionist Scotland negotiating from a strong position.
Scotland might opt for the Norwegian or Swiss approach. Catalonia and other parts of Europe are parts of unitary states. Scotland and England are Great Britain which exists while the Treaty and Acts of Union remain.
Scotland's independence would dissolve the Treaty and Acts of Union and Great Britain would cease to exist. The current focus is on the impact of Scotland, a secessionist state, overlooking two possible successor states. London cannot argue a share of the debt would cripple a successor Scotland while also claiming it would be seceding. Secessionist states are states which walk away. Successor and secessionists states are not the same.
It may well be that this argument is more complex and the possibilities more appealing and challenging than one might first think.
Professor William G Naphy,
Director of the Graduate School,
College of Arts & Social Sciences,
University of Aberdeen,
The next time a Scottish Minister is invited to appear before members of such a wildly unrepresentative body as a committee of placemen and failed politicians from the House of Lords, the invitation should be politely but firmly declined ("Swinney rejects Barroso's stance on Scots EU status", The Herald, December 12).
To be called a "scoundrel" by such people, while richly ironical, is grossly offensive to John Swinney, his office and the people of Scotland who elected him.
6 Floors Road, Waterfoot.