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Inaki Irazabalbeitia

Former MEP, Aralar

Scotland independent?

Sep 15, 2014

Alyn Smith, SNP MEP, sent today a letter to his colleagues at the European Parliament on the Scottish referendum due to be held next Thursday. I find it very illustrative.

Letter by Alyn Smith, MEP:


'Dear Colleagues,

As you will most likely be aware, this Thursday (18th September) Scottish residents will vote to determine whether Scotland should be an independent country or remain as part of the UK. I would just like to take this opportunity to briefly underline some key factors regarding this Scottish referendum, particularly on matters related to the EU.

Firstly, our situation is unprecedented, but it is worth stressing, the referendum is part of an agreed constitutional process. The Scottish and UK governments signed the Edinburgh Agreement, promising to respect and implement the decision reached in the referendum.

There is not one article or provision in EU primary or secondary law that fully covers our situation because we are already a member of the EU and have been for 40 years.  We wish to remain part of the EU, safeguarding the rights of the 160,000 EU nationals in Scotland, as well as all of our citizens living across the rest of the EU. We are already a distinct legal jurisdiction within the EU. Given the extent of devolution already within the UK, we are already integrated, independently, into the structural, fisheries, agricultural and other budgets.

We will need to negotiate to remain and there are things to work out but these are points of detail, not principle. Further, it is actually impossible - short of a simply incredible suspension of Scotland from the basic law - for us to leave. Indeed, the practical realities of instantly expelling part of the EU's territory would be enormous and would require a lot of negotiation. Since Scotland wants to remain in the EU, it would be a better use of resources, and more efficient, to keep Scotland in the EU on a transitional basis while the terms of full membership are being negotiated. Surely any pro-European should be thinking of ways to keep a pro-EU territory inside the EU rather than expelling them and then requiring them to reapply from the outside?

Of greater threat to Scotland's EU membership is the proposed, and ever more likely, UK in-out referendum currently scheduled for 2017. Scotland is more pro-EU than the rest of the UK (the polls show that where 65% of English citizens would vote to leave the EU, and 35% to stay, the numbers are nearly exactly reversed in Scotland with 65% in favour of staying) but if Scotland rejects independence on 18th September, there is a chance we will be forced out of the EU in 2017 if/when the UK leaves. Therefore a key part of the Yes campaign has been to highlight that if Scots really do want to remain in the EU, then their only option is to vote for independence now.

Scotland, independent, has a GDP per head higher than France. We are presently a rich country within a state that is the fourth most unequal in the world, heading to be the most unequal in developed world, according to Oxfam. Where I’m from, in Glasgow, has one of the worst life expectancies in the developed world. Westminster has had 300 years to prove we're better together and personally I don't see it. Scotland accounts for 25% of Europe's offshore wind and tidal energy potential, 10% of Europe's wave energy potential and 60% of Europe's oil production. We are on course to generate an equivalent of 100% of our electricity needs from renewables by 2020. We also have gas, financial services, whisky, biotech, and more. We have more top universities, per head, than any other country. We are a rich country and too many of our citizens are living in poverty. The status quo is not working for Scotland.

The debates in Scotland are dynamic, energising and like nothing I have ever seen. It really is an inclusive, democratic revolution. At a time when politics, politicians and government in all its forms is held in something little better than contempt, we have in Scotland created the conditions for a remarkable flourishing of civic participation, excitement, and an energising sense of possibility. We’ll see how high turnout will be, but I personally would be amazed if it is below 80%. People are talking about this in the clubs, cafes, churches and streets the length and breadth of Scotland.

I hope this gives something of an explanation regarding what is currently taking place in Scotland, though I would be happy to answer any specific questions you might have (though, forgive me, I am paying less attention to my EP inbox than usual right now)!'

I fully agree with Alyn. I hope Scottish citizens will vote 'Yes'. Since, it will open a window of opportunity for other European nations and, furthermore, it will force to redesign the road-map of the European construction.