Friday, December 14, 2012

Scottish Civic Nationalism's Very Dangerous Game

"One would imagine that the view of the European Commission regarding whether a Scotland divided from the Union would become a member of the EU automatically or would require to apply to join, sorry, negotiate the terms of its entry, would be final; and if that final view is that the appropriate supplication, if not downright abasement, has to be made then the Scottish civic nationalists would just have to pucker up"


Well, the European Commission has spoken - with the Monty Python foot.

Jose Manuel Barroso's cussed refusal to publicly acquiesce to  Alex Salmond's view that a Scotland divided from the Union would automatically accede to the EU has shot that duck quite dead in the water, and the only sounds to have emerged from the Scottish civic nationalists since then have been a few furtive quacks of rage at the dying of the light. 

Ever the good party man, John Swinney went down to London two days ago and took a spanking for the team from the House of Lords like the good soldier he is. It maybe didn't occur to him that contradicting Barroso is for all practical purposes tantamount to contradicting the European Commission; he is, after all, its president, the officer who speaks for it, and, who knows, he might even have taken the advice of some of its own lawyers before making his pronouncement. Presidents come and go, of course, but bureaucrats are forever, and I don't imagine the Commission's might take too kindly to their interpretation of their rules being publicly contradicted so soon after its president has stated those rules definitively. Swinney's slavish adherence to the party line might not be forgotten should the time ever come when Scotland has to apply to join the EU. 

The Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, did not exactly cover herself in glory in Holyrood today by appearing to 'soften' the Scottish civic nationalists' views even further. The analogy she used to illustrate the apparent ease with which member states can change territory and still remain members of the EU, that of reunited Germany, is so frivolous it doesn't bear consideration: if memory serves, Germany was reunited in the autumn of 1990, while the EU came into being in 1992. She appeared to use the analogy of a territory which was expanding in size before the EU became a legal entity to illustrate the opportunities available to one shrinking in size two decades into the EU's active life. That just does not compute. 

However, I can see the Scottish civic nationalists taking this debate down a very dangerous path, one which they would be well advised not to walk; that of suggesting that any division of Scotland from the Union would result in the remaining UK losing its EU member status on the basis that the territory which formed the original contracting party had diminished; that membership of the EU by a UK which does not include Scotland is insupportable, Scotland having been an integral part of the UK at the time membership was obtained. Although from their point of view it would be a logically consistent position to take, it constitutes one can of worms they do not want to open. 

What is noticeable about this debate is that, to my knowledge, the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government' hasn't ever pushed the view that if an independent Scotland were to automatically, if not miraculously, become an EU member state upon independence it would also inherit all of the current UK's other international memberships. However, as nice as it would be for them to attend the UN General Assembly that position would also entail inheriting membership of NATO, and for some of them that would be a step too far - 'No Nukes in Bothyneuk', and so on. It would be interesting to consider whether the rump UK would remain a member of the G8. If it did, that would only go to show how comparatively little economic activity is actually taking place in Scotland, maybe something for the Scottish civic nationalists to consider. 

Yet if they do go down the road of declaring that all of the UK's treaty obligations would be null and void, they would be placing themselves against those few genuine triumphs of British diplomacy of the past few years. 

Like the Good Friday agreement. 

That's maybe something for them to think about; or rather, something else for them to think about.

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