Scotland, Home Rule and the EU: Labour’s opportunity

November 11, 2012 3:18 pm

David Cameron has committed two inexplicable blunders in his handling of the referendum on independence for Scotland, to be held in autumn 2014 – barely two years away.

First, he has agreed with Alex Salmond that there will be only two options at the referendum:  independence or the status quo.  Thus Scots won’t be allowed to vote for what most of them want, according to the polls:  neither independence nor the status quo, but ‘devo max’, aka ‘Home Rule’ or ‘full internal self-government’.  Offering the two options which most Scots don’t want is a reckless gamble by Cameron:  he’s betting on the Scots choosing the status quo as the closest available thing to Home Rule.  Salmond, equally reckless, bets on Scots regarding independence as the nearest option to Home Rule, and voting accordingly.  If Cameron has guessed wrong, the result of his gamble will be the disintegration of the United Kingdom – the calamity for which history will remember him.

The second Tory blunder is Cameron’s failure to ram home the message that according to the best legal advice and opinions expressed by the EU Commission, if Scotland becomes independent it will have to apply for EU membership as a new state – contrary to Salmond’s unsupported assertion that since Scots are EU citizens by reason of the UK’s EU membership, they would remain EU citizens on independence and no question of a Scottish application for membership would arise.

The Guardian of November 2nd quoted a British government statement that its Law Officers, citing precedents, formally advise that the UK’s EU membership would continue after Scottish secession but that Scotland would need to apply for membership. EU conditions for admission of new members include adoption of the Euro and membership of the Schengen group of EU countries with no internal border controls for travel between Schengen countries.  Both conditions would raise enormous, probably insuperable problems for Scotland, including abandoning sterling and joining the crisis-ridden Eurozone:  and imposing controls on movements across the border with England.  Moreover Scotland’s application could well be vetoed by, for example, Spain, which fears that acceptance of Scotland in the EU would encourage the Catalans to redouble their campaign for independence from Spain.

There is much stronger support for the EU in Scotland than in England, and the prospect of automatic EU membership for an independent Scotland, as forecast by the SNP, has been one of the strongest arguments for independence.  Now we know that it would be far from automatic and that the conditions for membership could well be unacceptable.  So a vote for Scottish independence would risk leaving Scotland isolated and friendless, outside the EU — the exact opposite of what the Scots have been led to expect.

Yet this enormously significant statement by the UK government has passed almost unnoticed, as if it had little relevance to the debate on the pros and cons of Scottish secession.  Interest has focused instead on the more sexy but far less significant question whether Salmond lied when he implied that his government’s lawyers had tendered formal advice that Scotland would remain in the EU on independence with no need to apply for membership, whereas it emerged that they had not.  Why has the UK government not ensured that its bombshell statement is plastered all over the front pages of the Scottish newspapers, dominating the lead stories on television and radio?  There’s no obvious explanation for such failure other than incompetence and indolence, coupled with inability to grasp the significance of the statement.

It’s sometimes argued that the Scots can’t be offered a Home Rule option when there’s no reliable definition of what it would mean. Fortunately the Scottish Lib Dems have done their homework and produced an admirable document spelling out how it would work, including its possible and wholly positive implications for the rest of the UK.   It’s a huge pity that this blueprint for devo max, the completion of devolution, was not produced first by the Labour Party; but its Lib Dem parentage offers an excellent opportunity for Labour and the Lib Dems to join forces in defence of the survival of the United Kingdom by promising that if Scotland votes against independence in 2014, a future Labour government, with wholehearted LibDem support, will offer Scotland a new referendum offering the option of Home Rule within the UK on the basis of the LibDem policy document.  Labour should also ensure maximum publicity for the definitive statement on Scotland and the EU issued, almost in secret, by HMG.

If the Tory-led coalition is too incompetent to grasp this double opportunity to preserve the integrity of our country, Labour can and should step in now to fill the vacuum.

  • http://twitter.com/britologywatch David Rickard

    I think this is all a bit of a straw man. One reason why the UK government hasn’t made more of the legal advice referred to by the author is that it’s almost inconceivable that the UK would tolerate an independent Scotland being excluded from the EU. A decision to do so, perhaps forced by a Spanish veto, would severely exacerbate the already strained relationship between the UK and the EU, and could well tip the balance in favour of a referendum vote for the UK (+/- Scotland) to leave the EU. The UK government knows that if it chose to make more of this issue, it wouldn’t stand up to any scrutiny; so there’s no point in bringing it to light.

    Second, the author’s point relies on the assumption that ‘the UK’ would continue to exist as a continuation of the present UK if Scotland ‘secedes’. However, this is only an assumption and is legally untested. In fact, it could be argued that Scottish independence would bring about the total dissolution of the UK, based on the fact that it dissolves the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1800/1: no more Great Britain, no more UK of GB and NI. So, assuming the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland are given no say about the identity and composition of a continuity-UK (which is the safest thing to assume), we could still be looking at two new states, not one. So can we be sure that the continuity-UK, in these circumstances, would automatically inherit all the treaty obligations and international commitments made by the old-UK? That’s how it will doubtless be configured; but I’m not sure it’s not open to legal challenge, all the same.

    Third, it’s wrong to say the Scots are pro-EU. A YouGov survey of November 2011 in fact found that a majority of Scots polled – admittedly on a very small sample – would vote for the UK to leave the EU. Scotland’s europhilia is another assumption that’s essentially untested.

    • brianbarder

      According to the Guardian report to which my post refers, the UK Law Officers’ formal advice is that if Scotland seceded, RUK (the rest of the UK) would automatically continue to exercise the same rights and obligations as before. This is confirmed both by precedent (e.g. Russia’s inheritance of the USSR’s international status after its dissolution) and indeed by common sense. As to the assertion that the RUK would not “tolerate” a veto of a Scottish application to join the EU, you seem to imagine a degree of power and authority on the part of the UK (or RUK) in the EU for which I can find no evidence at all. You may be right in forecasting that such a conflict might result in RUK leaving the EU, but that would only make matters even worse for Scotland. The fact remains that much Scottish support for independence is based on the assumption that an independent Scotland will either remain in the EU or will be almost automatically admitted to it as a new member, and that assumption can now be seen to be simply wrong. The SNP’s case is holed below the waterline, and the more widely this is understood, the better the chances of survival of the UK.

      • http://www.facebook.com/andy.ellis.12532 Andy Ellis

        No, it really isn’t holed below the waterline at all; I have no axe to grind as I’m not an SNP member or supporter, but there is NO overwhelming evidence either way. The UK/Scotland situation is “sine qua non”, and not readily comparable with any other EU situation in the past (tho for what it is worth, the closest comparison is with Greenland negotiating with the EU to leave, which doesn’t support the unionist position).

        Other EU states would not tolerate the Francoist descendants in the Spanish Popular Party trying to veto Scottish membership, whatever rumpUK does. It is probably more likely that the blimpish little Englanders will take the rumpUK out of the EU than that Scotland will be either excluded or vote to leave.

        Scotland and it’s people cannot be excluded from an EU they already belong to; there is no precedent or mechanism for doing so; if you think there is, tell us about it! There is no compulsion about joining the Euro, we could stay out indefinitely if we chose, simply by refusing to abide by the 5 requirements set for joining. Similarly with Schengen agreements, we can negotiate what we please, as others have done. In the end, the EU will welcome an independent Scotland, because it would be folly for them to do otherwise. Whether Scots choose to stay in is another matter; it may be preferable to take the Norwegian option.

      • http://twitter.com/britologywatch David Rickard

        I agree that the most likely scenario is that rUK would inherit the UK’s present international status. My point, however, is that this is open to challenge based on the distinctive characteristic of the UK as a (supposed) union of equals: between Scotland and England (inc. Wales) = Great Britain; and between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Your comparison with the Soviet Union makes that state essentially Russia + 14 other nations / republics. On that analogy, the UK is essentially England + three other nations: if one of those nations leaves, that leaves England + two others. But the UK has never formally – in statute – been configured that way, even if, in practice, that is how it has been. No Scotland, no GB, no UK. Such 18th-century constitutional niceties are likely to be (attempted to be) ignored. But, as I say, there are grounds for a challenge.

        You may also be right that rUK would not have enough leverage within the EU to insist on Scotland becoming the automatic 29th member state (after Croatia, that is). But politically, it would have to try to militate for this, as the cost to rUK of Scotland not being in the EU would be unacceptably high. So, politically, the government can’t make any capital out of its legal advice, as it would have to admit that it would be forced to strive to ensure that Scotland remained part of the EU.

        The SNP’s case about the EU may be holed beneath the waterline. But if, as I contend, the majority of Scots are in fact anti-EU, doubt about Scotland’s EU membership may present little harm to the pro-independence case. Equally, championing Scotland’s continuing membership of the EU as part of the EU may not be in Labour’s interest in Scotland, particularly as the UK’s own continuing membership of the EU beyond 2015 is itself increasingly in doubt, to the satisfaction of the UK’s ever-less silent majority.

      • http://twitter.com/tylochan Angus McLellan

        “[T]he UK Law Officers’ formal advice” is irrelevant.

        Whether Cyprus, for example, would treat the rUK as a continuing state would be a decision made in Nicosia, not in London. The rUK might – would – negotiate in pursuit of Cypriot agreement, but it could not make Cyprus consent. And the same principle is true for every other country in the world, EU member or not.

        In much the same way, whether to treat Scotland as an inheritor of the UK’s treaty obligations or not would be a decision made by the parties to those treaties. And that’s as true for the EU treaties as it is for any other multilateral agreement. Again, the rUK and Scotland might choose to negotiate to gain agreement, or indeed the opposite, but success is not guaranteed.

        If the Guardian wants to write about this subject they would be better asking informed sources in the diplomatic services of major EU member states. But there aren’t any such sources because nobody will devote much time to a question that doesn’t need to be addressed until after some part of the EU in Europe votes to leave the state which it presently forms part of. Until then, why worry? The horse might learn to sing.

  • TomFairfax

    Generally agree.
    Cameron seems to aspire to match the depths of Lord North, who also failed to grasp that sometimes people in other places don’t want to be told what to do by people in London who don’t represent them. (Unless of course he thinks the Nats care as much for the endangered blue beasties as they do for Pandas.)

    On the other hand, if Scotland doesn’t stay in the EU, it won’t really matter as their biggest trading partner will be more likely to be out than in as well.

    I think the EU in the end will treat Scotland as already being inside the EU, but under different management. There is no requirement to change currency. The Scot’s issue their own pound notes already. I’m sure you remember that it took nearly 50 years for the Irish to ditch the one for one exchange rate with sterling.

    I think Cameron is Sumo Salmond’s biggest ally. Just like GW Bush was one of Bin Laden’s greatest assets.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    It is odd, Brian, I see mostly the same facts as you, but draw different conclusions.

    Firstly, I think that this matter is not really one of party politics, but those either pro-union, or pro-a modern self-determination. It is true that most tories are pro-union, but many in Labour seem to be as well, and other parties have a similar split.

    I think that the pro-unionist “camp” is behaving more intelligently than you give them credit. Let Salmond make all of his posturing, London removes the “middle” option of devo-Max, and then bit by bit over the year to come, lets slip all sorts of potential legal, EU, financial problems etc that would face an independent Scotland – not probably in the EU, unable to control its’ own money unless they back it with whisky or wind farms (they have little else once the oil has gone), inheriting a fair share of the UK’s debt, liable for the RBS bailout, liable for the increased proportion of Scots who need to call on benefits, etc etc.

    I also suspect that a “deal” is likely to be done behind closed doors***, in which the UK engineers threats from other EU countries with secessionist regions – Spain, as an example, but there are several other countries in a similar position. So by mutual arrangement, enough votes are gathered in the European Council to guarantee several countries threatening to bloc Scotland from joining the EU, and the UK is not seen to wield the dagger. For this mutual favour, you can be sure that the UK will also block future attempts by Catalans, Wallons, Basques and the north Italians to ever achieve their own statehood within the EU.

    A gradual accumulation of these little facts over the next year will lead to most intelligent Scots voting to stay within the union, either because they wish the union to remain intact, or because they can see that they would be materially worse off as an independent country. The vote is held, a majority are likely to vote to stay part of the UK, and then the issue is settled, hopefully for another 300 years. Self-determination has occurred, nobody can argue.

    If the pro-unionists are very clever, they could even split the SNP vote: arguably, remaining within the union with existing powers of devolution (which may in future be extended) is closer to the sort of practical self-determination that they really want, in comparison with being a small and poor country shut out from the EU and geographically isolated, seeing all of their young people and talent crossing the border to go south for work opportunities without having to learn a new language.

    The real question is, what becomes of the SNP if they fail to secure independence?

    *** You were a diplomat. I am sure that your memory will offer up many occasions in which “deals” were done behind closed doors between countries to achieve mutually satisfactory outcomes, but those deals are never publicised.

    • brianbarder

      @jaimetc: Thanks. I don’t think the differences in our respective conclusions are as great as you suggest. I agree that the issue of the Scottish independence referendum that we face is not inherently a party political one, in that all the UK parties oppose Scottish secession. But the party that leads the government, the Tories, are adopting an approach to the challenge which seems to me complacent, short-sighted, risky and unimaginative. Labour has no discernible policy on the matter at all, as far as I can see. The Scottish challenge, like most challenges, offers a huge opportunity as well as the obvious dangers (of the disintegration of the UK), and I would like to see Labour combine its response to the challenge — doing everything possible to persuade the Scots to remain part of the UK — with grasping the opportunity, namely to offer both the Scots and all the other peoples (plural) of the UK a new constitutional settlement, not just to give the Scots a better alternative to independence than the status quo, but also so as permanently to resolve the current anomalies and injustices inherent in our present semi-federal, semi-unitary, over-centralised, lopsided constitution, with the devolution process arrested in mid-stream and dissatisfaction with it growing in all four of the UK nations. This is a golden, perhaps unrepeatable opportunity for a durable, democratic settlement of the distribution of power among the four nations and their relationship with the centre. All the signs are that this opportunity is going to be lost through the cowardice and poverty of imagination of our political leaders.

      The only significant difference between us, it seems to me, is that you don’t see any need actively to bring home to the Scots one of the most glaring defects in the SNP case (namely that an independent Scotland might well find itself excluded from the EU), leaving it to the ordinary processes of debate and discussion in the next 22 months or so before the referendum to persuade Scottish opinion that the independence option is a bad idea; whereas such a passive approach seems to me dangerously complacent, especially with such a ham-fisted government in office in Westminster, probably throughout the relevant period. It also entails missing the opportunity for a wide-ranging constitutional settlement that I have tried to outline above.

      Where we do differ is in your proposal for a secret conspiracy, engineered by HMG, to ensure that an independent Scotland would be excluded from the EU by the objections of all the countries threatened by their own internal secessionist movements. This seems to me open to two objections, one of principle and the other tactical. First, it would constitute a betrayal of the responsibility of the government of the whole UK to safeguard the interests of all its citizens, including the Scots, even if they were to be misguided enough to vote for independence. In that event, it would surely be our duty to do our best to promote their entry into the EU, not to try secretly to prevent it. Secondly, even if it were to be desirable (which it’s not), it would be quite impossible to keep such a conspiracy secret. Our co-conspirators would have every incentive to reveal our role as the initiators; and anyway nothing is secret in such a leaky institution as the EU. The aim should be to act positively and openly (1) to offer the Scots an alternative to both independence and the status quo that would serve the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom; and (2) to bring home to every Scottish voter all the problems that independence would entail, including among many others the real possibility that a Scottish application for EU membership would be vetoed by at least one and probably more other EU members, however strongly the rest of the UK supported it: and that independence outside the EU would force Scotland to fall back on a degree of continued dependence on the rest of the UK
      which would rob independence of most of its meaning.

      • franwhi

        Brian – if you’ve attended to this issue as much as you think you have then you must see that the greatest barrier to constitutional change in Scotland is not the Cameron Conservative party or even the Coalition – but the Labour Party in Scotland which is currently too busy plotting and scheming to destroy Salmond at the expense of Scottish democracy. Scottish Labour are implacable in their intransigence towards the SNP and the tussle, led by the Scottish Labour Leader, has become vitriolic and Machiviellian as Labour side with anyone against the SNP just for the sake of it – even the Tories – which for Scots is about as unprincipled as you can get. The Labour Party shouldn’t be co-conspiring with parties antithecal to Scottish aspirations in the first place and secondly they should have the political conviction to set out their vision for Scotland before the referendum so we the voters can see what the options are.

  • cynicalhighlander
  • rekrab

    There isn’t a single UKIP MSP in the Scottish parliament.By enlarge Scotland has been an outwardly looking country for some time.How we link with our Northern European neighbours could be a creative move? shipping, maybe even a tunnel link or a bridge with Ireland, for sure Scotland has produced some of the best inventors in the world and tends to produce some of the finest regiments.Biochemically and chemical engineering is another area the Scots are leading in and our focused attention to medical care is also world leading.Scotland can be part of the international community and I seriously doubt any other advanced nation would like to isolate Scots or Scottish potential from continuing it’s role. New years eve will be upon us soon! and the world ore will sing a tune composed by a Scot, there’s not many countries that can unite the world like that.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      Derek, there is another point of view:

      Geography. Scotland is not very close to any other nation of great trading status. digging a tunnel to Ireland only connects you to another “basket case” on the edge of Europe, and sounds expensive as well. Digging a tunnel to Norway sounds unaffordable. Let us face it, an independent Scotland would be largely dependent for international trade with England, and there is no need to dig a tunnel to England, as there are already roads.

      It is of not much hope for your future with historic inventions (eg Tar MacAdam, penicillin, etc), and certainly not your valiant fighting men. Salmond seems to be “frit” of any international military commitments. As to looking forward, the costs of getting new drugs into production are enormous, and no drugs company has significant R&D in Scotland. I suspect there is no economic advantage to developing drugs in Scotland.

      You do have a point about the maudlin tradition and singing, but whether that is enough to generate lots of money is doubtful. It is my belief that an independent Scotland outside of the EU (which I believe is likely) cannot ever make the sums add up, even before you introduce the “freebies” on benefits and prescriptions and free student tuition, and if the sums do not add up, whatever currency the Scots try to use will rapidly become like Weimar Deutsche Marken. You will be eating the Herrings traded with Iceland for some tartan cloth.

      • rekrab

        Certainly the current financial situation is a worry for all however us Scots wont be sitting watching the dirty mocket flies flying around the cow pack, we’re thinking and saying that the mind set should be a forward looking one.I don’t see us adopting the gold piece as exchange and I’ve no reason to doubt why we can’t maintain the sterling pound but I think your right the Germans will corner the market with their own brand of Euro and fiscal control.In the end a modern world isn’t about where your geographical position is, unless your in an area of extremely nasty weather and suffer shuddering earth movements.I think Norway, Iceland Scotland and Ireland will bridge or tunnel some link sometime in the future and England will probably fund some of that initiative.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Derek,

          if Scotland becomes independent, and (initially) outside of the EU, you only have to watch one metric. How quickly the most talented young Scots leave Scotland, against how quickly the oil is running out, and after that there is only whisky and wind. This is Scottish history repeating itself, except this time with a vicious twist: English people have no love for modern Scottish nationalism, and so there will be little political will in Westminster to be nice to the Scots.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Derek,

          if Scotland becomes independent, and (initially) outside of the EU, you only have to watch one metric. How quickly the most talented young Scots leave Scotland, against how quickly the oil is running out, and after that there is only whisky and wind. This is Scottish history repeating itself, except this time with a vicious twist: English people have no love for modern Scottish nationalism, and so there will be little political will in Westminster to be nice to the Scots.

          I am sure many nationalists will make some sayings about “better to be poor and free”, and so on, but as is also said, “fine sentiments butter no parsnips”.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Derek,

          if Scotland becomes independent, and (initially) outside of the EU, you only have to watch one metric. How quickly the most talented young Scots leave Scotland, against how quickly the oil is running out, and after that there is only whisky and wind. This is Scottish history repeating itself, except this time with a vicious twist: English people have no love for modern Scottish nationalism, and so there will be little political will in Westminster to be nice to the Scots.

          I am sure many nationalists will make some sayings about “better to be poor and free”, and so on, but as is also said, “fine sentiments butter no parsnips”.

          • rekrab

            At the moment Scotland tends to be the engineering heart of the UK, while the South tends to the feeder of capital resources, banks and internal spending,banks alone wont resolve this crises.Where we’re at? a referendum and the question being put to the Scottish electorate 2014, where we’re not at? being aggressively obtuse towards Scots and Scotland.Jaime your akin and more aware than some of Scotland’s great position. How the world reshapes and defines it’s future is yet to come. I’ve just read the new article by JC, it’s a good read and a full on foundation however it’s all those little branches that divert off in another direction that aren’t to clear, which in turn only continue to raise the question about who would or what position would suit Scotland better.

          • franwhi

            That’s just conjecture. You know nothing about Scotland and our talented young people – they are international and outward looking as Scots have long been. They get their qualifications and often go out into the world in fields like engineering, biochemistry, medicine, film and the arts not as exiles but as ambassadors. Our young people are far better positioned in temperament and disposition to be citizens of the world than the English type nationalists you refer to in your post. BTW we don’t really use parsnip metaphors in Scotland – it’s not part of our cultural and linguistic repertoire but hey – you weren’t to know that so I’ll make allowances for your lack of insight generally. Scots are like that – magnanimous

  • http://twitter.com/RF_McCarthy Roger McCarthy

    Surely Cameron’s second ‘blunder’ makes his first a stroke of genius?

    A two part question would have produced devo max which would have destabilised the UK and led inevitably to similar demands from England, Wales and Northern Ireland so is by far the worst option from Cameron’s POV.

    Killing devo max at the risk of losing Scotland altogether would seem to be a reckless strategy – but the prospect of not being able to automatically join the EU makes that vote for independence vastly less likely.

    This is not because Scots in fact any more enamoured of the EU than the English but because they very much want to continue to be able to work, travel, study etc freely in the UK with minimum inconvenience – but independence outwith of the EU will allow implicit threats of closed borders, visas etc to be raised by a press which will stop at nothing to preserve the union.

    • brianbarder

      It all comes down to how seriously one should take the danger of a Scottish vote for independence in just under two years’ time. As of now I agree that it looks unlikely, especially with legal and political opinion hardening around the near-certainty that Scotland would have to apply de novo for EU membership, and might not succeed in that application. But much can happen in nearly two years, in which a UK government is increasingly strongly disliked in Scotland and pursues failing fiscal and economic policies with which the Salmond majority government convincingly disagrees (offering a much more plausible alternative policy); in which an insensitive UK prime minister is quite capable of strongly antagonising majority Scottish opinion, wilfully or otherwise; in which the current unfinished business of devolution arouses increasing resentment in the rest of the UK, especially in England, much of it enviously directed against the Scots; and in which Scottish opinion is skilfully manipulated by the UK’s wiliest and most agile political leader. No-one has yet got rich betting against Alex Salmond beating the odds on a major issue — and with Ladbrokes quoting odds of only 5-2 against a “yes” vote (for independence) it is simply reckless to take the result, two long years hence, for granted. Cameron may, as you surmise, want to rule out devo max or any further self-government for Scotland (although he’s reported as having said it’s possible if Scotland rejects the independence option); but in my opinion he’s taking a huge risk in refusing to offer it as an option at the referendum, spelling out beforehand what it would mean. After all, according to all the polls it’s what the majority of Scots currently want, and there’s no possible reason in a democracy why they should not have it.

      I should perhaps declare a sort of interest: as a convinced advocate of a federal UK, I would love to see Scotland offered and choosing full internal self-government, thus stimulating demands for the same benefits for England (and Wales and N Ireland) — probably, as you say, the last things Cameron wants. But by trying to exclude anything like that from the agenda, he’s gambling with the integrity of the country. Labour should do better, and is very well placed to do so.

  • MrSauce

    You seem to be assuming that Cameron doesn’t really want an Independant Scotland, and with it a permanant majority in an English parliament.
    I’m not so sure.

    • brianbarder

      Yes, I’m pretty sure that Mr Cameron would go to considerable lengths to avoid going down in history as the prime minister who presided over the disintegration of the United Kingdom. I also doubt whether he is anything like as confident as you seem to be that without Scotland, the rest of the UK would provide a permanent majority for the Conservatives, and I don’t think the record over the last few years of voting in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or even just in England, bears that prediction out. In any case, the secession of Scotland would force the Labour party to adapt to the new situation and address itself to the distinctive problems and interests of England in a way that would change the whole political environment.

      • MrSauce

        In a paliament of England, Wales and NI, the Conservatives would have 306 out of 591 seats from the 2010 election. Labour would have 191.

      • MrSauce

        In a paliament of England, Wales and NI, the Conservatives would have 306 out of 591 seats from the 2010 election. Labour would have 191.

      • MrSauce

        In a paliament of England, Wales and NI, the Conservatives would have 306 out of 591 seats from the 2010 election. Labour would have 191.

      • MrSauce

        In a paliament of England, Wales and NI, the Conservatives would have 306 out of 591 seats from the 2010 election. Labour would have 191.

        • postageincluded

          In 2005 Labour won 318 seats out of 587 seats in EW&NI, and that was on just over a third of the electorate. Losing Scotland doesn’t mean Tory domination. We can live without the Scots.

          Cameron knows this as well as anyone (apart, it seems, from you). That’s why he’s so keen on pushing pro-Tory changes in the electoral boundaries, and introducing individual voter registration. Those are the real threats to Labour.

        • brianbarder

          So?

    • brianbarder

      Yes, I’m pretty sure that Mr Cameron would go to considerable lengths to avoid going down in history as the prime minister who presided over the disintegration of the United Kingdom. I also doubt whether he is anything like as confident as you seem to be that without Scotland, the rest of the UK would provide a permanent majority for the Conservatives, and I don’t think the record over the last few years of voting in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or even just in England, bears that prediction out. In any case, the secession of Scotland would force the Labour party to adapt to the new situation and address itself to the distinctive problems and interests of England in a way that would change the whole political environment.

  • uglyfatbloke

    An excellent point about the ‘devo-max’ option, but well off the mark in regard to Scotland being in the EU. It is generally accepted among unionist politicians and sympathisers that this is the case, but the legal situation is far from clear. Scots are already in the EU and there is no mechanism for removing their rights as EU citizens not for excluding any country or region form the EU. Contrary to the assertions of Cameron (or Brown or Blair or even Salmond for that matter) the Scottish referendum essentially looks at dissolving the Treaty of union of 1707, it is not a matter of ‘secession’ strictly speaking.
    In the event of a ‘yes’ vote (which I very much doubt) there is a good argument that neither party will have an automatic right of admittance to the EU since the instrument that binds them *and only them) into the United Kingdom would not longer exist. It has been claimed that subsequent acts of parliament supersede the 1707 Treaty, but they don’t simply because it is a Treaty not an Act.

    An Act cannot supersede the Treaty of 1707 any more than it can supersede the Treaty of Rome . Equally it has been claimed that parliament CAN supersede the 17078 Treaty because Parliament has ‘unlimited sovereignty’, however Parliament only has unlimited sovereignty in English Law; this is not the case in Scotland.

    In practice of course the EU is expansionist by nature and neither country will escape Brussels that easily!…and on the topic of Brussels…if Belgium splits into two countries – which is, if anything, more likely than the UK doing so – there would be the prospect that the European parliament would then be outside the EU.

    Finally, on the economic topic…although Unionist politicians are always happy to point out that the oil is nearly finished, they are seriously at odds there with the oil companies and although they are at pains to claim that Scotland would be skint, it’s worth comparing Scotland with Denmark. Scotland has massively better economic resources (especially export products) than Denmark, so how come Danes are so much richer than Scots?

  • brianbarder

    I certainly don’t lay claim to any expertise in Scottish party in-fighting; whenever necessary I rely on that of some good Scottish friends who follow it closely. I have to say that they tend to confirm the views you express so vividly. The Scottish Labour party clearly has a lot to answer for. But I don’t accept that the Scottish Labour attitudes which you describe should be allowed to silence those of us who try to put forward constructive proposals for the future of both Scotland and the UK as a whole — especially when those proposals are openly designed to frustrate the SNP’s principal aim (independence for Scotland) by offering a preferable alternative more in keeping with the current wishes of the majority of Scots as expressed in many opinion polls. Supporting Home Rule for Scotland in the context of an eventual federation of the UK’s four nations would in no way represent a surrender to the SNP or acquiescence in its campaign for full independence — quite the contrary.

  • brianbarder

    I don’t disagree with any of that, except that on the purely legal level (as distinct from the political) the advice of the various national law officers of the other EU member states is likely to be similar to that of HMG’s legal advisers, since it’s apparently based on the precedents, parallels and legal texts on which other countries’ legal experts would also tend to rely. But of course you’re right to stress that HMG’s legal advice has no status as such in other EU capitals, which will reach their own conclusions. However, it’s worth pointing out that since national political interests will generally override each government’s legal advice in the event of any conflict, those worried about secessionist movements within their own borders are more likely than not to reach the same conclusions about EU membership for a secessionist fragment of a member state as HMG’s legal advisers have done.

  • brianbarder

    Whether or not you’re correct in your contention that the majority of Scots are anti-EU, the more relevant question is whether most Scottish voters who support independence would still support it if it might mean independence outside the EU. My impression, rightly or wrongly, is that the majority of informed commentators on these issues believe that a strong factor in such support as exists for independence is the assumption, energetically nurtured by the SNP, that an independent Scotland would almost automatically remain in, or if necessary apply successfully to re-join, the EU. Those of us, including all the UK parties, who hope to preserve the integrity of the UK, have a clear interest in correcting any misconceptions on this score, or so it seems to me.

  • uglyfatbloke

    late to the party, but never mind….
    The assumptions about Scotland and the EU are based, essentially, on the premise that Scotland would be ‘seceding’ from the Union. This is not the case; Scotland would be dissolving the Union of 1707 The Union of 1800/01 was framed to ensure that there was no conflict with the previous Treaty, and is, in any case, a Treaty between the UK and the Irish government of the day and therefore – like the Commonwealth Acts – has no bearing on existing treaties.
    There is no realistic possibility that the EU would exclude Scotland and there is no mechanism for doing so, though obviously one could be invented. OTH, it is not absolute certain that EU membership would actually be in Scottish interests, so there may be a Scottish exit anyway.

  • John

    Interesting arguments here. The EU question is a real unknown and, at least according to Barroso, Scotland would have to join the queue.

    But the greater issue is currency IMHO. Scotland can (a) devise its own currency, (b) use sterling or (c) use something else, probably the Euro. (a) is fraught with danger. It would not be traded that much so spreads would be large and it could go up and down with the price of oil which would dominate the Scottish economy. (b) would make Scotland essentially a client state of England without the representation they currently enjoy. The BoE would not allow Scotland to continue to print its own banknotes – it is illogical anyway. You cannot have one currency running under 2 legislative systems – what would happen if Scotland ran a deficit for a long time? If Scotland were able to generate money under fractional reserve, this would put sterling at risk. In other words there would have to be proper banking union and this would be controlled by the BoE. So Scottish banks would either have to use full reserve banking, move their operations south or borrow money from English banks with a premium on the interest. Option (c) would make Scotland just like all the small Euro countries – look at what happened in Ireland. Again this is because the Euro is a stateless currency that is being bossed around by Berlin.

    So 50 years down the line when Salmond and any other idiots that vote for independence are in their graves, their children, grandchildren etc will end up paying the bill. It is just not in Scotland’s economic interests to become independent.

    Apart from that, what about the unionist parties north of the border? What when Salmond loses power? Unless it is a one-party state, this will happen sooner or later. Then having burnt their bridges (and probably their economy with free everything), how will Scotland survive?

    The reality is that Scotland is stuck on the end of England. Instead of crying foul and taking their ball away, why don’t nationalist Scots stand up and try to improve matters south of the border instead? United we stand, divided at least the smallest party may fall. The UK has achieved amazing things for a small island. Let’s move forwards together.

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