Sometimes when you are an advocate of Scottish independence and you are constantly confronted with the same specious arguments from British nationalists, you feel like you’re Father Ted, trying to explain a very simple concept to Father Dougal. No matter how often you go over it, it fails to penetrate, even when you use very simple words. And. Speak. Very Slowly. This is because whereas Father Dougal is merely dense, British nationalists have a vested interest in refusing to understand the point you’re making.
There are several such concepts. There’s the concept that Spain will not in fact veto an application from an independent Scotland to join the EU. That one has been done to death, shot in the head, and buried in a ditch off the side of a back road in the hills above Benidorm by no less a person than the Spanish Foreign Minister, but it still pops up like the undead Michael Forsyth.
Then there’s the concept that an independent Scotland would not and could not be forced to join the euro. You can explain until you are as blue in the face as the cookie monster with his head in a plastic bag that joining the ERM-2 is a necessary precondition for joining the eurozone, and the EU imposes no timetable on member states to do so, and anyway it has no mechanisms for compelling them even if it did. But generally to no avail.
And finally, there’s the concept that membership of the EU for an independent Scotland is not remotely comparable with Scotland’s current position within the UK. If I had a euro cent for every time some opponent of independence has claimed that membership of the EU for an independent Scotland isn’t “real” independence, and that we’d have less influence within the EU than we currently do as a subordinate and ignored part of the UK, I’d have enough money to buy a couple of espressos and some coffee ice cream in one of the nicer cafés along the Malaga seafront, as well as the airfare to get there. Which might just provide the caffeine shot necessary to deal with the tedium of dealing with obtuse British nationalists.
Comparing the position of an independent Scotland within the EU with that of Scotland’s current status within the UK is rather like comparing the position of an animal in a zoo with one which roams in a fenced off national park the size of the Cairngorms. Both of them have restrictions on their absolute freedom of movement, but one of them is considerably more restricted than the other. And it’s not the one in the EU national park.
The EU is far from perfect. Its response to the situation in Catalonia was disappointing, to put it mildly. However it has demonstrated that it is a member club of states, it looks after the interests of its member states. Catalonia is not a member, Spain is.
We’re constantly told that the UK is a family of nations, a partnership of nations, but Scotland has had zero input into determining the course of Brexit. The concerns and interests of Scotland have at every turn been ignored and marginalised by a British government which is only interested in what’s good for the Conservative party. However we have seen from the response of the EU to the Brexit crisis that there is indeed a nation in these islands which really is a valued partner in a family of nations, which has its concerns listened to, and its needs taken into account. That nation is Ireland. It’s not Scotland. The so-called partnership of nations of the UK has been shown to be meaningless cant designed to allow British nationalists in Scotland to resign themselves to Scotland’s inferior position.
The inferiority of Scotland within the UK is illustrated time and time again. If the EU imposed as many restrictions on its member states as are imposed upon Scotland by the UK government, there would have been no EU referendum unless the EU had consented to it. That’s where Scotland is within the UK. Theresa May insists that she has the absolute right to decide whether Scotland is allowed to even ask itself about its own future.
Then take the words of arch-Brextremist Jacob Rees-Mogg. Jacob threatened recently that if the UK has to remain a member of the EU for some time to come, that it should wield its veto and prevent the passage of the EU budget. All EU member states have a veto on the budget, which is arrived at after negotiations between all the EU member states. Scotland not only has no veto on the UK budget, it has no say or input into determining it.
Right now, far from taking back control, the UK has no option but to hope and pray that the EU decides to permit an extension to Article 50, otherwise we face the chaos and trauma of a no-deal exit. Every EU member state has a say, and every EU member state has a veto. Right now, the 1.3 million people of Estonia and the 475,000 inhabitants of Malta have more of a say over the future of Scotland than Scotland does itself.
The EU doesn’t set our taxes and prioritise the enrichment of the wealthy. It doesn’t decide our social security policies and force humiliation on disabled people and make children rely on foodbanks. It doesn’t determine a housing policy that puts affordable homes out of reach of working people. It doesn’t enforce a hostile environment on those who do us the honour of choosing to make their lives in our country. The EU doesn’t take us into foreign wars in countries where we have no business being. It doesn’t site weapons of mass destruction within a few miles of our largest city.
The UK does all those things, and it does so whether Scotland wants it to or not. It does so without Scotland having any representation at the highest level of British government except David Mundell who hasn’t resigned yet. He has never seen his job as being Scotland’s voice in the British government, he’s the British government’s voice in Scotland.
So don’t try and pretend that an independent Scotland which chooses to join the EU would have less control over its own destiny than Scotland does right now. That’s an arrogant nonsense of British nationalism, the very sort of arrogant nonsense that has brought about this sorry state of Brexit affairs to begin with. Even Father Dougal could grasp that truth.
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