Stop insulting our intelligence on Scotland’s EU membership

Why would Scotland be asked to leave the "ever closer union" of Europe?


Scottish independence: Stop insulting our intelligence on Scotland’s EU membership


by Murray Ritchie

One of the saddest sights in politics is a passionate believer proved wrong. When the argument is lost, when the facts decide, when logic and truth prevail, the believer must face defeat. But some simply cannot bear to be wrong and they are the saddest of all. They enter denial.

The politics of denial is in full swing now in the independence debate. The latest example is the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who says if Scotland votes for independence it will be kicked out of the EU. “This is a fact. It’s neither a value judgment nor an opinion,” he insists while looking over his shoulder at those contrary Catalans and bolshy Basques.

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He has now gone further and said if Catalonia holds an independence referendum, Madrid will block it. And if it goes ahead anyway, Madrid with declare it illegal. He might care to recall the words of Donald Dewar as the Scottish Parliament was being set up. Dewar said clearly that an independence referendum organised by Holyrood might be illegal in Westminster’s eyes but there would be such political force behind a ‘yes’ vote that nothing could stop it.

Rajoy is backed by Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, who says if the Catalans vote for independence they will be kicked out of the EU. The same presumably would apply to the Basques, the Flemish, and all the other so-called European “little peoples” who hanker after independence.

At this rate, if these two have their way the EU will soon be disappearing down a plughole by stripping its own people of their citizenship in their millions  – at the very time the same EU is hell-bent on enlargement and pursuing its holy grail of integration. By booting out millions of its own people the EU would be promoting disintegration. These two men, and those who hang on their words, are most certainly in denial.

They must know they are wrong. Rajoy is an experienced EU head of government who knows how politics works in Brussels. The great overriding truth in the EU is that politics always, but always, trumps any argument. It trumps any law, any treaty, any diplomatic snag, any economic obstacle. The EU way is always to invoke Bismarck’s “art of the possible” to overcome the impossible. With 28 member states often in disagreement there is no alternative.

Spain’s prime minister insists against all political reality that should the “region” of Scotland declare independence, thus breaking the Treaty of Union of which he has obviously never heard, then we shall be expelled from the EU and forced to reapply as new “third country” applicants. He really believes – or says he does – that five million Scottish EU citizens must be stripped of their rights and must apply for membership of a club they’ve been in for 40 years.

He ignores the deal between Holyrood and Westminster which allows time for Scotland’s terms for EU membership – which could be decided in hours – to be agreed before independence day while we are still in the United Kingdom. He ignores the fact that there is no mechanism for expelling a state or “region”. He assumes England is the UK and will be the successor state, which is a strange interpretation of the rule in the EU which says England is also a “region” of a member state.

The man is in denial or he is an idiot.

His own useful idiots are those in the ‘no’ campaign – Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Tories to the fore - who say he has a point and that “nothing is certain”. Yet they concede Scotland will probably remain in the EU unless pulled out by a UK referendum.

Just how could Scotland be expelled? We all know there is no written procedure for expulsion. The only plausible precedent is Greenland whose greatest difficulty was getting out of the EU, managing withdrawal only after a referendum.

Suppose for a minute that some commission Eurocrat in Brussels recommended that Scotland be expelled and treated as just another applicant country. The EU’s time-honoured way of dealing with tricky issues would be invoked in line with the custom that “the commission proposes, the council of ministers disposes”. Europe’s foreign ministers would gather and be asked to throw Scotland out. They can’t do it, even if they wanted to. They would have to refer the matter to the full summit of heads of state and government.

If an EU summit did have a collective seizure and decided to strip citizens of their rights (and the Court of Justice would have a view on that) they would have to do so unanimously. All 28 member states, including the UK which, remember, is pledged to assist Scotland in a constructive way, would have to agree unanimously to kick us out.

It just won’t happen. Spain’s threat to veto Scottish membership after a deal is struck on Scotland’s terms of membership is a ridiculous bluff. Which is why Rajoy refuses to promise a veto. He knows the EU which is based on respect for peace and democracy cannot punish its own people for exercising democracy peacefully while wishing to remain EU citizens with much to bring to the club. The politics of the debate overwhelm any knotty detail.

With enlargement as a continuum the EU never tires of enticing all European states to join up for its “ever closer union”. It refuses to give up even on Norway and Switzerland. Only someone in denial would seriously argue that the EU would welcome all of Europe as members – except, of course, the Scots, with their oil-backed net contributions and four decade-old membership cards.

Wouldn’t it be helpful if the ‘no’ campaign came out of denial and admitted their tedious argument is lost and they and their Scottish media cheerleaders stopped insulting our intelligence?


Murray Ritchie is a former European editor and Scottish political editor of The Herald.


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Showing 17 reactions

commented 2014-01-07 06:23:05 +0000 · Flag
The author uses words like “idiot” and “denial” quite liberally in an attempt to give credence to his own argument. I find writers who operate like this have little understanding of the subject matter.

As Dick Gagel commented, it’s not independence if you’re dictated to by Brussels.

A truly independent Scotland could be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but not under the mountain of EU diktats. No way. We would definitely be an impoverished backwater, especially with Alex Salmond in charge and his “Constitution” which will guarantee that anybody in the EU can come to Scotland to study at university for no charge.

Who is going to pay for that, plus the massive EU contributions we will be expected to make as one of the Continent’s apparently richest countries with 90% of the EU’s oil (according, I think, to Nicola Sturgeon)?

There may possibly be more Labour governments in an “independent” Scotland than SNP ones, and look how well the “Scottish Mafia” ran the UK into the ground last decade.

This indy-pretence, in fact, is is nothing more than a vanity project to say that we are free from Westminster at last. That’s it. We will be less free than we are now – a minnow, with 1% of the EU’s population (and that will keep getting smaller as more countries are added, particularly Turkey) who will not be at the top table making decisions, as some try to kid us with, but taking orders from the big guns and the army of unelected bureaucrats dreaming up ever more clever and convoluted ways to control and tax us.
commented 2013-12-16 23:18:24 +0000 · Flag
Do you really think Ireland would vote to expel Scotland from the EU?

I cannot think of a single party that would dare to do it, the blowback would be enormous on so many levels.

commented 2013-12-15 23:00:13 +0000 · Flag
I think Dick Gagel had made some important points which I think might find favour with many undecided voters in the referendum. Do we want to put ourselves in a strait jacket or really free our country of Scotland up to look at all options. A really strong Yes vote could put us in a new scenario to draw up a modern stare fit for all levels of society. That is a real aspiration.
commented 2013-12-15 22:59:59 +0000 · Flag
I think Dick Gagel had made some important points which I think might find favour with many undecided voters in the referendum. Do we want to put ourselves in a strait jacket or really free our country of Scotland up to look at all options. A really strong Yes vote could put us in a new scenario to draw up a modern stare fit for all levels of society. That is a real aspiration.
commented 2013-12-15 19:47:06 +0000 · Flag
I can’t understand why everyone is staring itself blind on EU membership as if that is the only association possible that Scotland could enter into as if its life depended upon it. To begin with the Scottish Government cannot dictate that Scotland will just continue membership without giving the populace a chance to vote on that via a referendum. If Scotland truly wishes to be Independent it cannot be that and surrender sovereignty to Brussels. The ideal European association would be to apply for EFTA membership, with far fewer existing member states voting on such an application, and which as I have on the best authority, would be warmly welcomed.
Why is the Scottish voter left in ignorance of the choices on the table?
commented 2013-12-15 15:29:31 +0000 · Flag
Want Britain have two seats in the European Councils? Then comes the independence of Wales and will have three seats? Then Northern Ireland? Then Gibraltar, and then Britain will have five seats? Recognize what? Someday Britain will have to admit that their goal is to destroy the hope of a united Europe from within?
commented 2013-12-15 14:45:05 +0000 · Flag
Excellent piece from one of Scotland’s most respected political commentators. A must share on FB.
commented 2013-12-15 14:32:50 +0000 · Flag
The whole question is another instance of the “NO” campain trying to “fleg the bairns” yet again.
commented 2013-12-15 13:58:57 +0000 · Flag
Excellent, well argued article which should be used by the broadcasting media in Scotland as platform fior further debate. They are in denial too.
commented 2013-12-15 13:00:26 +0000 · Flag
This the kind of article which we should expect to see published on the front pages of the Scotsman, The Herald, the Daily Record and broadcast on the BBC. However it won’t be, because it weakens the position of the No campaign.
commented 2013-12-15 12:57:55 +0000 · Flag
EU Citizenship cannot be taken away as it would break Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
commented 2013-12-15 11:47:41 +0000 · Flag
Time ECHR was approached for an opinion on the legality of removing EU citizenship from the people of Scotland
commented 2013-12-15 01:35:17 +0000 · Flag
Excellent article which lays out clearly the political reality of Scotland’s position regarding EU membership. That the naysayers should cling to the bluster of Mr Rajoy is no surprise. That so many newspaper journalists and our impartial broadcasters should consistently avoid exposing it for what it is is is simply an embarassment.
commented 2013-12-15 00:08:06 +0000 · Flag
Good stuff. I don’t know much about the EU and only really know a bit about the employment law it produces but this sounds plausible and it has the ring of truth.
Knowing how dishonest the no side has been about the economics I’m sure they’ll be full of it in this area as well. It’s strange to hear them eurosceptic in Westminster and good Europeans when engaged in the debate here.
commented 2013-12-14 23:05:16 +0000 · Flag
Great article.

I’ve linked to it in the Europe section of our new Referendum Guide site:
published this page in News 2013-12-14 22:08:05 +0000