According to the CBI, in a recycling of pretty much the same scare story they published last year – see big business is so green. Actually, it’s the same recycled scare story brought out by the CBI before the devolution referendum in 1997, when they warned us that businesses would flee in terror from a devolved Scottish Parlie. Although I’ve not checked, I seem to recall that they made similar warnings in 1979. This time, they’ve added an extra twist of Arctic Cloudberries to the cocktail, claiming that an independent Scotland would have the same influence in the EU as Finland.
And without any apparent sense of irony, or indeed understanding of the current position, they said that like it’s a bad thing. Many of us in Scotland would be delighted if an independent Scotland had the same influence in Europe as Finland, because under the Union Scotland has less influence in the EU than Vanuatu.
Each EU member has the right to apppoint one member of the EU Commission. Commission members are not directly elected, they are selected by national governments. The UK has had 13 members since joining Europe. Finland has had 2. Finland chooses for itself who is going to represent Finland in the EU Commission, Scotland is represented by people chosen by Westminster. Westminster typically uses EU Commission seats as a reward for party hacks, 8 of the UK’s past and present commissioners are Labour, the remaining 5 are Tories. Tony Blair’s former co-conspirator Peter Mandelson was a Commissioner, as was former Tory Cabinet Minister Chris Patten when he wasn’t heading the BBC Trust. So instead of Scotland’s voice being represented in the EU Commission, we got an 8.3% share in Peter Mandelson.
The sole Scottish EU Commissioner was the arch-Unionist and former Shadow Scottish Secretary Bruce Millan, who resigned from the Glasgow Govan seat to take up the post in 1988. The subsequent by-election was won by Jim Sillars for the SNP. Millan was a commissioner until 1995. If anyone wants to argue that Millan would put the interests of Scotland before the interests of Westminster, I’ve got a Squinty Bridge to sell you.
But of course Scotland doesn’t get to exercise its 8.3% timeshare in a Commissioner in its own interests, the Coalition government in Westminster decides that – and it’s not always in Scotland’s interests as happened when Westminster traded away Scottish fishing rights in return for some of the UK’s prized opt-outs. But the CBI would have us believe that 8.3% of Peter Mandelson is a far better means of ensuring that Scotland is heard at an EU level than a Scottish Commissioner. There’s business logic for you, and now you know why the economy went down the pan in 2008.
Incidentally, although Better Together constantly warns us that Scotland won’t get any of these opt outs, because the EU is full of nasty and bitter countries who impose rules blindly, they don’t want to raise the subject of whether the rUK will be able to retain them either. If the rUK is no longer in control of Scotland’s fishing grounds, which were the cod pro quo for its opt outs, then it’s a safe bet that Westminster will be faced with EU partners who are quite keen to revisit the subject. So long UK rebate, and thanks for all the fish.
Despite Scotland having the largest fishing grounds in the EU, and the importance of fisheries to the Scottish economy, Westminster refused to allow Scotland to attend EU discussions on fishery policy, even as an observer. We don’t only lack a voice, we’re not even allowed to witness the discussions held above our heads.
As part of the UK, Scotland has 6 seats in the European Parliament, the same number as Luxembourg (population 537,000) and Malta (population 450,000). Finland, which has a population approximately the same as Scotland, has 13 seats. A Finnish level of representation in the European Parliament would see Scotland more than double its representation in Europe. But this is a bad thing, according to the CBI.
Meanwhile the mantra that Scotland is too small to have any influence is constantly cited, by the same people who are overly fond of quoting Manuel Barosso’s dubious opinions. That would be Manuel Barosso who comes from the small country of Portugal, which presumably isn’t too small to have EU influence.
Scotland isn’t in the driving seat in its dealings with the EU. We’re not even in the back seat safely strapped into a child’s chair. Westminster has Scotland locked in the boot where no one can hear the muffled complaints.
The UK and its institutions are like a middle aged man with a tiny wullie who buys a flashy sports car by way of compensation. Scotland, they scoff, can only afford a boring workaday motor that takes the weans to school and gets you to work and back and may, if you’re lucky, feature in a Star in a Reasonably Priced Car and be reviewed by Jeremy Clarkson. But since Scotland has no interest in sitting at traffic lights next to an American sports car and revving up the engine before racing to Iraq, a serviceable motor would do most Scottish people just fine. Unlike the UK, Scotland is content to be a small European nation – that’s what we are, and we have no interest in pretending to be anything else – unlike some.