By Derek Bateman

Surely the Barroso story isn’t…a story? He hasn’t said anything new and to anybody who has been following this for the last two years, this is status quo. The main point seems to be that he appears on a London television programme, one watched by London political hacks desperate for Monday morning copy and he says something easily spun into an anti-Salmond, anti-Scottish top line so who cares if it isn’t new?

To be fair, to most of the knee-jerk hacks writing this stuff it will be new because they have no idea what has been said in Scotland’s far-off, indecipherable referendum catfight. And for the BBC the imperative is to publicise their own output rather than quibble about veracity.

Interestingly, what is missing from the versions I’ve read so far is the question: Why? Why would Scotland find it difficult, perhaps impossible to have full EU membership?

This question isn’t asked because to a metropolitan observer, the very idea of independence is daft anyway so anything that backs up that prejudice goes unchallenged. If there is a variation in his latest deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of a vote in a member state it is that he puts the problem down, not to process, but to politics.

Somebody, Spain he implies, will veto Scotland so therefore it is probably impossible for Scotland to get membership. But that country’s foreign minister has said they have no locus and no interest in blocking Scotland so long as independence is secured through a legal process. Presumably the Commission President doesn’t believe statements from his member states’ foreign ministries. (Does Andrew Marr receive any pre-interview briefings, or is he too important like Mr Naughtie?).

What was somewhat galling to those of us who are Europhiles and look to Brussels to provide some leadership on international matters, is the linking of Scotland with Kosovo, where a million ethnic Albanians fled or were forcefully driven out, more than 11,000 deaths have been reported to the UN prosecutor, nine Serbian and Yugoslavian commanders have been indicted for crimes against humanity and in one the accused were charged with murder of 919 identified Kosovo Albanian civilians aged from one to 93, both male and female.

Kosovo declared UDI, it did not got through a legal process and is in such a relatively poor state that the EU is nursing it towards normalization. Does that sound like Scotland? The most outspoken country opposed to Kosovo’s recognition is Spain which objects to any EU or NATO initiative on which refers to it as a state.

Just where the comparison is found between Kosovo, created from the fire of war, and exemplary, modern Scotland, meeting every acquis and with a 40-year record of membership is hard to say if you are applying logic, rather than Barroso weasel words. Isn’t it also a little presumptuous of Spain, a member since only 1986, to imply blocking us?

I’m still amazed that Barroso’s constant campaigning on behalf of the UK and thereby breaking the rules by interfering in a member state, goes unremarked. He always adds, after pointedly suggesting the Scots can forget it, that he doesn’t have a role and it is up to the voters.

The way to do this according to the rules is to ask the legal services people to give a legal judgement and inform the Scots before they vote. Instead he gives us his oily smile and pretends he is acting independently. No complaints are made about this incessant political interference even though the British government objects to EU involvement in every aspect of life.

We should be ready for another EU intervention as the European Parliament is about to reveal its legal advice. This is interesting as we have Barroso for the Commission making his view known, now the Parliament and yet nobody has asked for legal advice from the Council which is the body responsible for membership.

MEPs are pushing for this which sounds like a good idea and indeed, who knows, it may be. But be aware it is the direct result of campaigning but our stalwart Scottish Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler who, along with their Tory chum Struan Stevenson, are furiously working the corridors to ensure their own country will be a pariah in Europe – such patriotism.

Their joint letter got this under way and it was originally blocked because the legal people didn’t want to get involved before any formal approach from the UK. But then it was forced through committee by Tories and Lib Dems and Socialists so there are grounds to be suspicious that they think they will get a negative ruling to suit their argument against their own country.

We know from experience that the Unionist MEPs have no love of their own country being a force in Europe – our number of MEPs would actually increase – and they have studiously avoided anything that could be construed as constructive, democratic engagement with our  national referendum, preferring to play the supplicant role to Cameron’s British state interests.

The forces of authority are lining up against Scotland as once they did against devolution so courage and nerve is required. But I’ll tell you one thing that is now clear – the only way to earn respect in the world is to be a sovereign state in your own right because without that status you count for nothing, as Osborne and Barroso make abundantly clear. The only status they respect is independence otherwise they treat you like trash.

Courtesy of Derek Bateman


# Abulhaq 2014-02-17 09:12
Scotland’s constitutional situation is unique. There are no precedents for an old unitary state such as the United Kingdom, established by treaty, however defective, separating into its original constituent elements. The characteristics of the models available from the 19th and 20th centuries bear no resemblance to our case. The Scottish and Westminster governments are stepping into new constitutional territory. There will be legal/ constitutional opinions by the bucketload. The Barroso opinion carries no more weight than that. We need to get very tough with this unprofessional, off-the-cuff brand of internal interference from the likes of Senhor Barroso.
# Breeks 2014-02-17 09:52
What I increasingly resent is the implicit assertion that such a small and dare I say it trivial issue is presented as persuasive evidence against voting YES.

Neither the BBC nor Better Together can compile any cohesive arguments even to contest 90% of the pro independence case, and so we get undue focus on the grey 10% that’s left, and disproportionat  e soul searching on obscure and potentially awkward minutiae, which are of relevance to nobody but the BBC.

David Attenborough doesn’t study an elephant by examining its ticks, but that is how the BBC is addressing independence.
# goldenayr 2014-02-17 12:33
LOVE the elephant analogy.
Perhaps we should use the it to describe the bbc and the wider british establishment,i  .e.

You can only truly recognise an entity by the parasites that feed off it.
# Montrose 2014-02-17 13:20
Andrew Marr at his best. Don’t tell me all this isn’t stage managed. Anyone else would have questioned the “impossible” comment,but he was too busy enjoying the moment.
# Will 2014-02-18 16:23
Breeks, if the currency is such a trivial matter, how do you explain the fact that Sturgeon, Swinney & Salmond all felt obliged to make speeches defending the SNP ‘position’ (or lack of one)?
# Breeks 2014-02-18 18:00
Because a currency union is the best option for both, & that’s why they commend it.

For my part, I agree, but from day 1, our respective economies are going to start to diverge, & at some stage a currency union will no longer make the same sense, at which point Scotland can complete it’s independence with minimal pain suffered upon either economy.
By ruling out a currency union, Westminster makes such a smooth and painless transition less likely, and considering the rUK’s debt, that seems pretty short sighted. A minor tweak in interest rates, and the rUK is in big trouble.

I don’t believe the SNP has no position nor suitable Plan B. In fact they are sure to have plans C,D,E and F too.

If the SNP has been wrong footed at all, and I’m not convinced it has, but it’s perhaps because they didn’t bank on rUK being so happy to compromise their own best interests just to make a point which Alex Salmond can sidestep in a heartbeat.
# Breeks 2014-02-18 18:25
The trivial issue I was referring to was Barroso’s intervention. Europe is at great pains not to comment unless asked to do so by a sovereign government. Mr Barroso seems free to ignore such constraints.

Currency isn’t trivial, but from Plan A currency union, Plan B Scottish pound pegged to sterling, Plan C Scottish pound pegged to Euro, etc the Scottish Government has a range of good options from which to choose.

If Westminster isn’t just posturing and genuinely thinks they have Mr Salmond cornered, then I fear they have a disturbingly poor grip of the reality. If they had a better grasp, they would not have marched themselves up a cul de sac by refusing a currency union.
# Will 2014-02-19 14:38
The Treasury, the Tories, the Labour Party and the LibDems, do not agree that a currency union is the best option. As they are the people from amongst whom a breakaway Scotland would have to come to an agreement about creating a currency union, it doesn’t seem that such an agreement is really on the table. The SNP does need to have somebody to agree with on this, if a currency union is to be a viable option. Salmond may want to gamble that they are all bluffing – do the Scottish people want to join in the gamble?
If per impossibile this currency union were agreed, to embark on such a union, with the prospect of its soon no longer making sense, would be to invite the speculator sharks to attack – hardly a smooth and painless process.
# bringiton 2014-02-19 15:40
What do you think is going to happen when the current sterling area loses 10% of it’s GDP overnight?
# Breeks 2014-02-19 15:52
What does the treasury actually gain by refusing a currency union?

They will just see Scotland’s exports traded in another currency, but expect no reaction to the gaping hole left in the balance of trade when Scotland exits. All they are doing is virtually provoking a rise in interest rates which the UK cannot afford.

A currency union would give both economies a safe harbour to disentangle themselves, and either renew a currency union if it proved stable and mutually beneficial, or part company as appropriate, when appropriate.

The Unionist’s may not like a currency union, but it is in their interests to have one. If they don’t see sense, it won’t actually be the Scottish economy which suffers but their own. They see a currency union as a stick to thrust in the spokes of Independence, but instead they have handed Alex Salmond a debt free Scotland AND the moral high ground over currency.
The Unionists don’t have a bluff to call.
# Breeks 2014-02-19 16:21
The big mistake is Unionists believe their own propaganda that Scotland has a weak economy, but even under Westminster government, Scotland still out performs most of the UK. With the better tailored fit of bespoke independent government, productivity will improve.
Get yourself a copy of the 1975 McCrone Report. It speculates on how an independent Scotland would thrive on it’s oil. It’s 40 years later, and thanks to Westminster, we haven’t thrived, & we may or may not have massive debts to contend with initially, but beyond that, all the ingredients are still there to build a much stronger ‘McCrone’ type economy if that is the objective we set ourselves. Only independence gives us this opportunity. We blew it in the 70’s. Norway didn’t. But we have a second chance to try again, but only if we vote YES.
# goldenayr 2014-02-20 00:39

You seem to be hung on the issue that this is all the FMs idea,ignoring the testimony of various bodies who also desire it..Do you not think that a currency union is a good plan in the short term?
Once the last vestiges of Westminster mismanagement are eradicated then we can look at other possibilities.
# Will 2014-02-20 09:36
The 1975 McCrone report? I’m waiting to get my copy of Gavin McCrone, Scottish independence: weighing up the economics, Birlinn, 2013 – slightly more up-to-date!
A breakaway Scotland would depend on the declining reserves of North Sea oil and gas. Oil production has fallen by 6 per cent a year, from 150 million tonnes in 1999 to 52 million tonnes in 2011. Gas production has fallen from around 40 billion therms in 2000 to 16 billion therms in 2011.
2013’s oil production was the lowest since 1977. Oil and gas revenues fell from £11.3 billion in 2011–12 to £7.4 billion in 2012–13.
By 2017-18 oil production is forecast to fall to 44 million tonnes and gas production to 13.7 billion therms. Oil and gas revenues are forecast to fall to £4.5 billion in 2017–18.
The first chance went, blown by Thatcher’s appalling incompetence and short-termism. Now Britain’s oil and gas are running out!
# snowthistle 2014-02-20 20:20
It is because oil and gas is running out that we must gain control over what is left to ensure that it too is not frittered away.

You miss the relevance of the McCrone Report – it illustrates perfectly the extent to which the UK state deceived the people of Scotland. Why should we now trust them?
# bringiton 2014-02-20 20:45
Britain’s oil and gas are running out but Scotland’s isn’t.
A conservative estimate based on known reserves is around 40 years,time enough to build a stabilisation fund.
The reserves in the Atlantic margins are an unknown but likely to be significant.
We will not denude this resource at the current rate because we don’t need to,our population being much smaller.
If we continue to leave this important Scottish resource to Westminster mismanagement,i  t will be squandered on illegal wars and other things of no benefit to us.
# Breeks 2014-02-20 22:21
Yes, the North Sea production is declining, & our climate is also protesting about our addiction to fossil fuels, but Scotland is blessed yet again with revenue from oil which we can invest in renewable energy. The oil has already lasted well beyond the 1970’s predictions, but that bounty has been squandered so very, very cheaply. We cannot afford to let Westminster squander all that remains. We have to control the revenue that does remain to refit our nations infrastructure to accommodate renewables. With proper investment & long term planning, our clean power can augment our economy indefinitely.

There is a concept which people significantly richer than me can access, of being financially independent. It’s a threshold, to have enough rent from property & interest from savings etc to live indefinitely without working, but they work anyway. We should be aiming to get Scotland over that threshold, & have wealth which renews itself.
# Will 2014-02-21 10:51
Breeks, I completely agree with you! “We have to control the revenue that does remain to refit our nation’s infrastructure to accommodate renewables. With proper investment & long term planning, our clean power can augment our economy indefinitely.”
The problem is that the SNP as a neoliberal party not only has no plans to benefit the economy, it opposes any such planning. That is why we need to move beyond the neoliberal dogmas of all the parties, Tory, Labour, LibDem and SNP. Only then can we use our natural resources to rebuild our country.
# goldenayr 2014-02-21 18:52
Soooo….your only argument against restoration is the feelings you harbour to the SNP?
Strange standpoint,but hey,if that’s how your mind works.
# Will 2014-02-24 13:30
No goldenayr, I oppose neoliberalism, wherever it appears in British politics. The SNP, not the SSP or the Communist Party, would be running a breakaway Scotland. The SNP would be writing any new Constitution, imposing neoliberalism. But even if a socialist party were the immediate beneficiary of breaking away, I would oppose it. For any working class, unity is strength; division means defeat.
# snowthistle 2014-02-24 18:42
Sorry, who says the SNP will be writing the new constitution?
# Will 2014-02-25 16:16
Well I don’t see the SNP adopting the Cubans’ approach and inviting the whole people to take part in drafting the constitution!
‘Scotland’s Future’ says that ‘an independent constitutional convention’ will ‘debate and draft the written constitution’ (page 351). It cites the precedent of the USA’s constitutional convention of 1787, which did not involve the people as a whole in drafting the US Constitution. Nor is there any promise to involve the wider public.
# snowthistle 2014-02-25 19:36
There is more to Scotland than just the SNP. Indeed there is work being done on a written constitution in many quarters, including NNS…/……/…
# Breeks 2014-02-25 21:56
And what constitution is on offer from Westminster? Better the devil you know?
# Breeks 2014-02-21 21:55
Then Will, it might surprise you, but I’m inclined towards agreeing with you. I’m 100% all for Independence, but I’m no fan of the SNP, and definitely not a fan of neoliberalism.

However, a YES vote is just the start. It’s the tipping point where we step forward or we step back.

I may not like the SNP, but paradoxically, I do rate Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon as standing head and shoulders above the rest with regards leadership and strategy to get that all important YES vote.

A NO vote gives us nothing. A YES gives us the platform to start making our own decisions. I’m not voting YES for the SNP, I’m voting YES for Scotland.

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