THE SNP/GREEN GOVERNMENT’S ILLUSORY SUNLIT UPLANDS
Delivering their latest fantasy booklet “An Independent Scotland in the EU”, Cabinet Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson promised that following a ‘YES’ vote, the SNP/Green coalition government could fast track the accession process to ensure Scotland would move “smoothly and quickly” to re-join the EU within two years. Against a background of high inflation, an energy crisis, the NHS in meltdown, falling educational standards, soaring drug deaths and a lack of affordable housing, re-joining the EU is hardly top of anyone’s household priority list right now. But undeterred, the SNP/Green government has pressed on with their campaign to bombard Scotland’s unwitting public with a seemingly endless stream of illusory propaganda brochures that involve the fulltime employment of 20 civil servants and more than £20 million annually of taxpayers’ money to produce.
The harsh reality, that Humza Yousaf’s failing government has plummeted in the polls and looks set to achieve a drubbing at next year’s general election, has apparently not registered with Angus Roberston. His unfailing optimism, that portrays the sunlit uplands of independence turning our benighted nation into a heavenly nirvana, is somewhat undermined by the facts. Scotland’s current GDP deficit is 15.1% compared to the UK’s 5.2%. The EU does not welcome new Member States who run a GDP deficit above 3%. Scotland’s annual public sector expenditure is currently almost £107 billion, while our total public sector revenue from taxation is only around £88 billion, leaving a glaring £19 billion deficit that has to be met by an annual fiscal transfer from the Treasury in London. Where would this come from after independence? Even if Scotland did succeed in eventually re-joining the EU, the hard border created with England, where we do 63% of our trade, would cause catastrophic problems for business and industry.
Brushing all of these issues aside, Mr Robertson argues that an independent Scotland would continue to use the pound while it awaits full EU membership. ‘Sterlingisation’, as this process is known by economists, would mean the Bank of England would have full control of Scotland’s monetary policy, while the Scottish government would have no say in it whatsoever. Not having our own currency and relying instead on the English pound would also prohibit an independent Scotland from joining the EU, another fantasy pledge casually overlooked in the SNP paper. Instead, Mr Robertson argues that we would move towards the introduction of a ‘Scottish pound’ and then, ultimately, to joining the Euro. The concept of Scotland having three different currencies within a period of perhaps only ten years, must send shivers down the spine of even the most dedicated nationalist. Certainly, it would be ruinous for business.
The SNP/Green propaganda brochure says that Scotland would benefit from renewed EU membership in five key areas. Firstly, they claim that being part of the single market, with "reduced barriers to trade" and less bureaucracy, would boost business. In fact, Scotland has been part of the most successful single market in the world since the Act of Union in 1707, where our trade with the rest of the UK is worth more than three times the value of our trade with the entire EU. That would face a dramatic slowdown after independence. A hard border with England and a separate currency would also create vast levels of bureaucracy, as has been seen with the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland.
Secondly, the document claims that re-joining the EU would open access to a larger labour market, with no restrictions on employing EU citizens to work in Scotland. Angus Robertson failed to point out that the free flow of citizens across the EU and the likely re-positioning of refugee camps from France to Scotland, would be one of the main reasons that England and the rUK would demand rock-solid border controls.
The third apparent benefit from renewed EU membership in an independent Scotland would be the return of the Erasmus+ exchange programme, enabling students to study and do work placements in all 27 EU Member States. Again, Mr Robertson omitted to mention that following Brexit, the UK government replaced Erasmus with the international Turing scheme, which enables British students to study or undertake work placements in countries around the world and not just in the EU.
In fourth place in the list of apparent benefits for Scotland would be a return to multi-year funding security for Scotland's farming and rural businesses, through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). I am sure that many farmers who voted for Brexit will have regretted it and been dismayed at the SNP/Green government’s lack of interest in rural Scotland. They might well long for the days of hefty annual subsidies from Brussels, which have ground to a halt. Nevertheless, it is strange that the document singles out the CAP for a mention, while carefully avoiding even a hint of the other common policy, the CFP. SNP parliamentarians know that their fishing communities, particularly in north-east Scotland, will never support a return to the hated common fisheries policy, which they claimed devastated our fleet and gave foreign vessels open access to our waters. Renewed EU membership would make the CFP mandatory for Scotland.
Finally, the propaganda document claims that renewed EU membership would enable EU law enforcement tools, to help police and prosecutors operate "more effectively", in the fight against cross-border crime and threats. Again, the blurb omits to mention that following Brexit, the UK government signed a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the EU, part three of which formed the basis of continued cooperation between the UK and EU on law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. So, a return to EU law enforcement tools is another illusory benefit.
Three centuries ago, Scotland struck an extraordinary deal with our English neighbour, providing us with major economic, political and cultural gains in exchange for a nominal sharing of sovereignty. We now benefit from one of the most empowered systems of devolutionary government in the world. By leaving the UK, the separatists would throw all of that away and make Scotland poorer. This may be an honourable point of view, but it has to be accompanied by honesty. Propaganda booklets like “An Independent Scotland in the EU”, fall short on that criterion.