Yesterday’s intervention in the Scottish independence debate from the Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt might have had more of an impact if the veteran Swedish politician hadn’t come over all George Cataclysm Robertson. Making an implicit comparison between the peaceful, civic, resolutely non-ethnic and entirely legal campaign for Scottish independence and the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the wars of the former Yugoslavia is both hyperbolic and insulting. However if Bildt wants to insult his own intelligence and the reputation of Sweden as a moderate and reasonable voice in international affairs, that’s a matter for him and the voters of Sweden.
What is a matter for the rest of us is what this latest screech from the edges of sanity tells us about the British government and its underhand attempts to manipulate the Scottish debate in its favour. Carl Bildt didn’t just enter into this debate because he happens to have opinions about a democratic and constitutional process taking place in a fellow EU member state – the very kind of process which the EU’s own founding treaties have pledged to support and uphold. Bildt would be the first person to tell any foreign politicians who was attempting to influence a democratic vote in Sweden to butt out. His intervention in Scotland smells more offensively fishy than surströmming.
Derek Bateman has already looked at some of the links between Bildt and right wing pressure groups and organisations in the UK. Although there is no direct evidence, no smoking gravlax, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that Bildt made his statement at the informal instigation of the British Foreign Office and egged on by the Spanish Partido Popular.
Bildt is a member of the Swedish right wing Moderata samlingspartiet, a member of the European Popular Party in the European Parliament. Herman van Rumpuy and Manuel Barroso, the two previous high profile European politicians to make public interventions in the Scottish independence debate, are likewise members of the European Popular Party.
I’ve already reported on the coordinated attempts of the Spanish Partido Popular and the UK Tories to build a pan-European alliance of right wing political parties who oppose self-determination for national, linguistic, or ethnic minorities within existing EU member states. The Tories have held regular meetings with Partido Popular representatives in order to discuss mutual back scratching strategies in their respective campaigns against Scotland and Catalonia.
After one such meeting at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham in 2012, the Partido Popular’s Esteban Gónzalez Pons announced that he had reached a formal agreement with the British Conservatives to campaign together in Europe against Scottish and Catalan independence. Gónzalez Pons further declared that he would be travelling to Edinburgh that December for further meetings with Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tories – and with senior representatives from the Labour party. More details are in a translation of the original Spanish language news report which you can read here : Scotland and the EU, the plot sickens
Aware that making secret agreements with foreign political parties to influence democratic decisions and legitimate political processes in Scotland goes way beyond normal politicking and approaches very close to something looking uncomfortably similar to betrayal and treason, the Tories vehemently denied that they had made any agreements with the Partido Popular. But they continue to meet and have their wee chats. You can read more about that in this Newsnet Scotland article published in November 2012, and in this Sunday Herald article from December 2013, and an article I published on this blog in response.
There are no agreements signed in black and white, just winks, nods, and secret handshakes. It is entirely coincidental that they all spout the same dubious line on Scottish EU membership.
One of the most important conduits for constructing this anti-democratic alliance is the European Popular Party. In September 2012, Esteban Gónzalez Pons travelled to the European Popular Party conference in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, where he solicited the support of other countries in the struggle against self-determination. The conference was attended by representatives of Carl Bildt’s Moderata samlingspartiet. What we are seeing from Sweden’s Carl Bildt now is a new manifestation of the attempts of our political masters to pull the Nordic wool sweater over our eyes and to encourage foreign politicians to make interventions in Scotland.
Our supine media plays along with the charade that Bildt, like van Rumpuy and Barroso before him, is a neutral player making an important intervention in the debate – when in fact it’s another of Better Together’s put up jobs, as neutral as Vote Nob Orders is grassroots.
The real grassroots Solidarity with Scotland campaign was set up precisely because the UK Government and the Westminster parties are actively seeking foreign interventions in the Scottish independence debate. Political parties are one thing, but the UK Government is making full use of British Embassies and High Commissions in order to campaign against Scottish self-determination, and have reportedly been seeking support from foreign politicians and businesses.
The Solidarity with Scotland campaign, coordinated by the indefatigable Pilar Fernandez from Galicia, asks Scots and their family and friends abroad to write to the British Embassy or High Commission in their country, expressing their support for Scottish self-determination, and their concern that the actions of the UK Government risk damaging the reputation of the United Kingdom as a beacon of the highest democratic standards. How can the UK complain in future that Iran or Russia is interfering in a third country when the UK is itself encouraging foreign countries to interfere in democratic votes in the UK? Westminster is not just damaging Scotland, it is damaging the rest of the UK as well.
The Bloque Nacionalista Galego, the leading pro-sovereignty party in Galicia, has recently announced it will give its full backing to the Solidarity with Scotland campaign. It’s a testament to the fact that for every Carl Bildt or Manuel Barroso, Scotland has a thousand true friends like Pilar Aymara.