Better Together got a new expert recently, who promised to inject a note of substantive academic rigour into the contradictory mess that purports to be the argument for the Union. Professor Jim Gallagher was formerly the UK civil service’s heid bummer on the Calman Commission which promised Scotland a little bit of devolutionary jam. Now he’s retired, he’s taken up a new job as a director of a company owned by Swiss Re, the insurance giant responsible for the Gherkin, that very large penis shaped building in the City of London.
The no campaign hopes to persuade Scotland that the fact that Westminster is populated by very big pricks is a good thing. So combined with his expertise in the contradictory mess of the Calman Commission, working for people with a severe case of penis envy made Jim the ideal candidate as an advisor on policy and strategy for the Better Together campaign. And just one week into the job, he’s already made a dick of it.
The Herald reports today that in his blog last April, the Prof admitted that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be forced to join the euro or the Schengen free travel zone. Cue red white and blue faces all round Better Together’s HQ, where they’ve been spending the last year claiming Scotland would have to join Schengen and the euro, apparently simultaneously with being expelled from the EU. I’ve never been entirely clear on how that’s supposed to work, but then neither is anyone from Better Together.
When it was put to him that his blog comments contradict the line fervently spun by his new boss Alistair Darling, the Herald reports that the Prof said in a statement : “there have been significant interventions from the Prime Minister of Spain and the President of Catalonia, and it is not all clear what terms could in fact be agreed.”
Uh huh, so the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Catalan President Artur Mas have since made important interventions that have changed everything. Have they buggery Jim, as you know fine well.
Firstly of course, the Prof didn’t actually say that it was now clear that his original opinion was wrong. He may very well still be of the opinion that, as he wrote on his blog in April you could take an “educated guess” at the situation, and see that it is “pretty likely that Scotland would be an EU member state, probably after an accelerated set of accession negotiations” and that “requirements to join the Euro or Schengen agreement can surely be avoided.”
That remains the situation, and nothing either Mariano Rajoy nor Artur Mas have said have altered it. I’ve already posted a piece on what Mariano Rajoy really said, and what he didn’t say. A few days later Rajoy was asked repeatedly whether Spain would veto Scottish membership of the EU but refused to answer. All Rajoy said is that a country which becomes independent cannot be an EU member because of the fact that it has not signed the EU treaties. But Rajoy has been spouting the same simple minded legalism since well before April last year, when the Prof wrote his blog.
Rajoy has never answered any questions about Spain’s attitude to a Scotland which has voted yes, but which is still a part of the UK, and is negotiating EU membership prior to the date of independence. That’s what would actually happen in the event of a yes vote. If he had made a statement about that then perhaps there really might have been a significant intervention on the part of Mariano Rajoy, but all Mariano is doing to parroting lines fed to him by the folk who had the meetings with the UK Tories, when they discussed a common response to independence campaigns within EU states.
I’ve also written on what Artur Mas said, and how he was discussing a hypothetical situation which has no bearing on Scotland. Mas was discussing what measures might be necessary in order to preserve EU membership for a Catalonia whose independence Madrid refuses to recognise. That’s not a situation which would apply to Scotland, whose independence would be negotiated with Westminster and recognised by Westminster. Unlike Scotland, where the referendum is legally recognised and constitutional, Madrid refuses to countenance an independence referendum in Catalonia and is threatening to block any vote. Rajoy’s government has said repeatedly that they will not recognise the result and will not negotiate independence with the Catalans.
All this greatly complicates Catalonia’s path to international recognition, which in turn complicates its path to EU membership. Scotland faces none of these hurdles.
Catalonia is already part of the Schengen area and uses the euro as its currency, and desires to continue with both. None of this has any bearing on an independent Scotland which doesn’t use the euro and which will continue in the Common Travel Area with the UK, the Irish Republic, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. So nothing Mas said can possibly have put an independent Scotland’s position on those two subjects in any doubt.
Given that neither Mariano Rajoy nor Artur Mas have never uttered any statements relevant to the spurious claim at hand – would an independent Scotland be forced to join the euro and the Schengen zone – Professor Jim’s explanation for his change of mind is in the long tradition of Better Together strategy planning. It’s made up as they go along, hoping that a sympathetic media will ignore the glaring contradictions, the gaffes, the nonsense, the half truths and the outright lies. Looks like he’s hit the ground running.