This is an article that Alyn Smith, SNP MEP, wrote recently in The National newspaper. It answers the above question.
I have done a lot of reaching out to Leave voters since the EU Referendum. Remember, Remain won, in every region of Scotland, but it was not unanimous and I have written extensively in this column about how and why. In my view, most folk who voted Leave did so on specific promises, be it public procurement, more powers for Holyrood, fishing, £350m a week for the NHS, or the prospect of giving the establishment a skelp.
Well the promises are unravelling before your eyes. There will be no new powers for Holyrood, quite the reverse. There will be no bonanza for the fisheries catching sector (which is of course just part of our complex and crucial fishing industry along with fish farming and processing).
But one issue remains, especially for a lot of independence supporters. The simple fact that we want as much democracy as close to us as possible. Independence, nothing less. Why, they ask, swap London for Brussels?
I’m very happy to nail that argument. It is safe to say that sovereignty is close to an SNP member’s heart. We’ve thought about it quite a lot. The UK and EU are not like for like, even with our devolved Parliament in Edinburgh, we are a small minority within the UK, and as we’re seeing with the wholesale assault on that Parliament’s responsibilities, power devolved is power retained. I want to see Scotland independent not to be separate or apart, but to join the world speaking with our own voice, to work with other independent countries towards common endeavours.
The people of Scotland are sovereign. End of. But we’re also no longer in the 9th century. In the modern world nations recognise that no man, nor woman, nor nation, is an island. In our daily lives we voluntarily accept limitations on our freedom towards the common good. A red light at a traffic crossing infringes my personal liberty, but a society with rules we all stick to gives us all better outcomes, compared to the alternative.
The same works for countries. The EU is a project. A war avoidance project, and a very successful one (at a time when global tensions are rising, lets remember). A project which lets the people of Europe get to know each other by living working, studying, travelling across each other’s borders with a minimum of fuss. It is also a market, and all markets need rules so that commerce happens fairly and consumers are protected. We now agree weights and measures in concert with 500 million other people. Every single EU rule has been democratically agreed by 28 democratically elected governments, and the democratically elected MEPs on behalf of their citizens. Scotland is democratically represented at every part of the process.
Look at Ireland, right now. For much of its independent history it would be difficult to say Ireland was much of a success, but joining the EU gave it a wider platform on which to shine and a solidarity to fall back upon. It is not for nothing that Ireland’s continuing boom coincided with EU membership. It is not for nothing now that Dublin has the upper hand in dealings with London, the other 26 EU states have their back, because solidarity matters. Independence in Europe in action right there.
Yes, these rules limit our sovereignty. Voluntarily, for so long as we allow. We made them, agreed to them and yes, we all benefit from them, many times over. We can also get the sovereignty back any time we want so long as we are willing to suffer the consequences on our own sovereign heads.
And lets think of the consequences of other options, many of which are being touted as if they were somehow solutions. With Norway and Iceland near neighbours we know there are plenty other ways of interacting with the EU. They’re poor options for Scotland. Either would leave us obliged to implement all the rules, paying through the nose to do so, but giving up our say in their formulation.
Sovereignty is absolute, but if we want what’s best it can be shared too. In the EU we do, and benefit massively from that sharing. As an independent Scotland, we’ll have our seat at the top table alongside Germany, France, and indeed Malta, and all the rest. We’ll not be a small country, we’ll be part of the flotilla, able to make common cause on our priorities with like-minded states. It is not that there aren’t other options, of course there are, its that independence in Europe is by a country mile, or indeed kilometre, Scotland’s best future.
This article is copied here with both Alyn and The National’s approval.
THE LATEST DRAFT AGREEMENT on Brexit between the UK and the European Union amounts to a “massive sellout of the Scottish fishing industry by the Tories,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Michael Russell asks if Ruth Davidson should resign following anger from fishing industry over broken Tory promises.
Following the announcement that the UK Government and the EU have agreed upon a “large part of the agreement” that will eventually lead to Brexit, regarding what the UK Government refers to as the “implementation period”, it is now expected that powers over fishing quotas will remain under the control of the EU.
Sturgeon condemned the move on Twitter, as well as highlighting the apparent confirmation of early warnings from the Scottish Government regarding such an eventuality, saying: “This is shaping up to be a massive sellout of the Scottish fishing industry by the Tories. The promises that were made to them during #EUref and since are already being broken – as many of us warned they would be.”
Further anger at the deal came from Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, who said the agreement fell “far short of an acceptable deal”.
Armstrong commented: “We will leave the EU and leave the CFP, but hand back sovereignty over our seas a few seconds later. Our fishing communities’ fortunes will still be subject to the whim and largesse of the EU for another two years.
“Put simply, we do not trust them to look after us. So we issue this warning to the EU: Be careful what you do or the consequences later will be severe.
“To our politicians we say this: Some have tried to secure a better deal but our governments have let us down.
“As a consequence, we expect a written, cast-iron guarantee that after the implementation period, sovereignty will mean sovereignty and we will not enter into any deal which gives any other nation or the EU continued rights of access or quota other than those negotiated as part of the annual Coastal States negotiations.”
We are delighted to have Peter Murrell, Chief Executive of the SNP, join us on 15 March at Torryburn Community Centre. This is a meeting for SNP members only and you can book your free tickets on Eventbrite.
Refreshments will be available and we will also have a raffle. Donations to the raffle will be most welcome.
The Scottish budget for the next year has been passed by the Scottish Parliament. Here’s what the budget means for the Fife, Perth and Kinross.
✔ £400 million more for our NHS and more money direct to schools
The Tory government at Westminster has cut the budget available for public services in Scotland by half a billion over the next two years. By choosing a fairer path on taxation we are protecting Scotland’s cherished public services.
The budget will ensure:
record health spending of over £13.1 billion, with NHS Fife receiving over £636 million in the next financial year and NHS Tayside receiving over £734 million;
over £10 million is going to Fife Council and £1.6 million in Perth and Kinross to go direct to schools to tackle the attainment gap;
a real terms increase in day to day spending on local council services; and
investment of almost a quarter of a billion in our plan to near double provision of childcare and early years education.
✔ Seven in ten income taxpayers paying less than they are paying this year
Changes to Income Tax will make Scotland the fairest taxed part of the UK, with the majority of taxpayers paying less than if they lived elsewhere in the UK. Compared to last year, everyone earning less than £33,000 will pay less.
✔ An end to the one per cent public sector pay cap
Next year we will deliver a minimum 3 per cent pay rise for public servants earning less than £36,500 – 75 per cent of public sector workers. For those earning more than £36,500 will receive a 2 per cent rise and a cash cap will be put in place on increases for those earning more than £80,000.
✔ Investing in schools, hospitals and roads in Perth and Fife
Investment will support:
infrastructure projects in Fife through innovative new finance methods;
the construction of the A9 Luncarty to Pass of Birnam; and
support construction of Tulloch Primary School, Bertha Park High School and Kinross Primary School in Perth and Kinross.
✔ New investment to ensure Scotland is the best place to do business and invest
To grow the economy in Fife, Perth and Kinross, we will:
invest an extra £100 million to deliver the best business rates package in UK;
continue to commit to the Tay Cities Deal which brings together public, private and voluntary organisations in Fife to deliver a smarter and fairer region;
increase investment in business research and development by 70 per cent;
set aside £340 million for a National Investment Bank with a new £150 million Building Scotland Fund; and
begin procurement of the £600 million programme to deliver superfast broadband to all homes and premises.
✔ Maintaining the social contract, ensuring Scottish taxpayers get the best deal anywhere in the UK
With the cost of living rising, our commitment to a social contract with the people of Scotland is more important than ever. This budget will continue to fully fund an NHS free at the point of need; maintain free university tuition; and free personal and nursing care.
To strengthen the social contract this budget will:
implement Frank’s Law, providing free personal care to those who need it;
increase Carers Allowance;
provide free access to sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities;
and continue to provide all babies with a Baby Box of essential items for their first weeks and months.
✔ New action to fight poverty and inequality
To build a fairer Scotland, this budget will:
invest £756 million towards our pledge to build 50,000 affordable homes in this Parliamentary term;
begin investment of the £50 million End Homelessness Together Fund;
begin investment of the £50 million Child Poverty Fund; and
maintaining £100 million a year investment to mitigate welfare cuts, including fully mitigating the Bedroom Tax.
I hope you all had a good Christmas and Hogmanay and are now rested for what promises to be a busy 2018. If we are to have a deal it must be concluded within the next ten months or there will not be sufficient time for the European Council and Parliament to ratify the deal before the March 2019 exit date. There is an awful lot to be done in that time and it is going to be a big ask to get the deal done.
These negotiations mean that Brexit is going to become far more real to people as the lies and wishful thinking of the Leave campaign collide with reality. Things are going to be unpredictable and fast moving. Even this week Nigel Farage and the Leave.eu campaign headed by Aaron Banks have called for a second EU referendum! Who would have bet on that last week?
Frankly, I am not sure we are there yet. If there was a feeling in England that the Brexit vote was somehow stolen, especially by a liberal elite aided and abetted by the Scots and the Irish, then it would put rocket boosters on the next iteration of UKIP – which would be more like Britain First – and we would be back here again in a few years’ time. I wrote more about this in response to a piece from Kirsty Hughes of the Scottish Centre for European Relations, you can read her piece here
I’ve always been clear that EU membership, ideally as an independent state but even as part of the UK, is in Scotland’s best interests. In the EU referendum, Scotland voted to remain. This is our starting point and our clear position. In 2018 I will continue to do everything possible to make that a reality.