Saturday, 19 July 2014

The big EU fib

The British Unionist campaign to prevent Scotland re-establishing itself as a normal independent country is based on a big lie – the assertion that we are ‘Better Together’, which actually means governed by and from a parliament in London – so we shouldn’t be too surprised when the organisation gleefully tells another big fib that seeks to demean the standing of Scotland and the abilities of the Scottish people.

The Better Together campaign, which it has been revealed is primarily funded by London-based millionaires and supporters of the Conservative Party, issued a press statement last Tuesday, July 15th, in which it stated that the new President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, had “indicated that a separate Scotland would face a difficult journey to join the EU”, quoting Mr Juncker as saying there would be “no new [EU] enlargement in the next five years”.

Better Together’s statement was seized-on by the British Unionist media – that’s every daily newspaper sold in Scotland (but owned by mainly London-based companies) – all of which carried banner headlines on front-page stories claiming Juncker’s comments had completely destroyed the SNP’s argument that an independent Scotland would be able to renegotiate membership of the European Union within the 18-months between September’s Independence Referendum and the proposed date of ‘Independence Day’ in March 2016.

There is something particularly distasteful about Scots who have such a loathing of their own country and its people that they glory in anything that appears to damage Scotland’s right to be even just a normal nation.

However, within hours of the anti-independence stories appearing in the British media, Mr Juncker’s office issued a statement saying the spin applied by Better Together and repeated by newspapers and broadcasters was wrong.  So desperate had the British Unionists been to attack Scotland’s rights as a nation and the abilities of the Scots to govern their own country, they had completely misrepresented what had been said by the President of the European Commission.

In the statement issued from Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker’s official spokesperson referred to the comment about no new EU enlargement for five years, saying, “At no point is Scotland mentioned, as this is an entirely separate issue.  Mr Juncker has made his position on this clear on many an occasion: this is an internal matter of the UK and he will respect the result of the Scottish referendum.”

There is no equivocation in Juncker’s comment, no scope for misunderstanding – he had not been speaking about Scotland when he referred to a moratorium on EU expansion for five years: yet the ‘news story’ misrepresenting his views was still posted on the Better Together website as of last night (July 18), three full days since the European Commissioner issued a statement making clear the British Unionist interpretation was completely wrong.

Personally, I would not have a problem with an independent Scotland operating outside of the European Union, as Norway currently does.  However, every opinion poll on the subject indicates Scots want to remain members of the EU.  The people of Scotland have been citizens of the European Union since 1973, enjoying the rights and responsibilities associated with membership.  Within the Articles that govern the European Union there is no mechanism for expelling a member state, or part of a member state, nor is there any way of removing EU citizenship from people who currently hold it.  If an independent Scotland wants to remain a member of the European Union, then that position would be accommodated by the EU: to believe otherwise is to argue that the other nations would somehow seek to punish Scots for embracing the self-determination provided by independence (the same status enjoyed by every other EU member).  It would also require the European Union to initiate completely new legislation allowing the expulsion of a country and its people, in order that it could kick-out Scotland, the nation that currently has the EU’s largest oil reserves and fishing grounds.

In reality, the only threat to Scotland’s continued membership of the European Union would emerge if we reject independence in September’s referendum.  With polls showing the Tories are likely to win the May 2015 UK Election, there would be a UK-wide referendum on membership of the European Union by 2017 at the latest.  You only need to look at the European Election results in England last month – a resounding win for UKIP, which favours EU withdrawal – to see that Scotland could be taken out of the European Union as a result of votes cast in England, and whether we like it or not.  The only way of safeguarding our current EU membership is to re-take our independence and establish ourselves as an equal partner with the other normal independent nations.

Jean-Claude Juncker’s comment about no further EU expansion for the next five years related to so-called accession states, countries that are not currently members of the EU but which wish to join.  Scotland is already a member of the EU, as part of the UK, and Scots are citizens of the European Union.  When Scotland retakes its independence, the current member state – the United Kingdom – will no longer exist.  This would mean that both Scotland and whatever England, Wales and Northern Ireland want to call themselves would renegotiate their membership from within the EU.

As we get closer to the Independence Referendum the British Unionist scare-stories and outright lies are getter bigger and more extreme.  For Scots, though, the thing to bear in mind is that independence is simply being a normal country.  Those of us who support an independent Scotland have faith in our fellow Scots: we know we can run our country better than London-based politicians. 

Independence isn’t about Alex Salmond or the SNP, it’s about us, the people of Scotland: it’s about us taking control of our country, control of our future: building a better, fairer country: governing ourselves at home and representing ourselves in Europe and on the world stage.  Independence is simply re-establishing ourselves as a normal nation.

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