UK Unionists unwise to use EU in Scottish debate

There are many fundamental differences between the reaction to separatist movements in the UK and Spain – to the advantage of the UK is almost every case, it must be said. However, one parallel is the threat made by “unionists” in each case that any separating region would be forced to leave the EU.

This demonstrates a common failure to demonstrate between the technicalities of government (as taught in “political science” classes) and actual political practice. There is no chance whatsoever, in reality, of the EU ceding territory unnecessarily. Scotland, like Catalonia, is part of the EU and will continue to be, wherever sovereignty for it lies – to suggest otherwise is, in practice, an obvious nonsense. (That the SNP has tripped itself up on the subject is due to its own incompetence, not the issue itself.)

To be clear: no one is suggesting that Scotland or Catalonia (or Veneto or Flanders) would be independent instantly after a referendum. A process of negotiation – with a clear popular mandate – would begin. This would likely take years – at least two years, perhaps more. Within that negotiation would be how the territory would remain within the EU (assuming, in Scotland’s case, the UK hasn’t left in the meantime!), with the clear will of the EU being that the territory would remain inside, as an additional member state (the EU’s motion is forwards and expansive – it is hardly going to accept the loss of territory, even temporarily, on a technicality!)

So the entrance of a spurious argument over whether a separate Scotland (or Catalonia or wherever) would remain inside the EU is bizarre. It has no merit (obvious or otherwise), no purpose, and no advantage – because it is so obviously ridiculous in practice. All the conventions and laws being quoted are designed to deal with new member states – but, to use a good Scots word, it would be daft to treat Scotland and Catalonia, comparatively prosperous and successful EU jurisdictions, as “new”!

You do have to wonder about the “Better Together” campaign sometimes (although not half as much as you wonder about the Spanish government’s failure to grasp basic concepts of democracy and self-determination). It got lucky, as discussed here last week, when the SNP twisted itself in knots over legal advice concerning the EU. However, UK Unionists do need to reflect on the issue too. There are many reasons to argue in favour of the continuance of the United Kingdom; and some, perhaps, to argue against the independence of Scotland (although from an objective point of view, these are generally best left to one side even if they do exist). A spurious threat about Scotland’s place in the other Union – the European Union – is not one of them.

In 2020, we can be sure Scotland will be part of the European Union. Which is more that we can say about England!

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