The SNP’s plan for separation is a job creation scheme for constitutional lawyers, argues CATHERINE STIHLER


The change in SNP rhetoric from claiming that Scotland would automatically gain EU membership on day one of independence to accepting that there would require to be a negotiation is a clear U-turn on their original position.

Now they are talking about red lines for any negotiation: keeping the pound, keeping Scotland’s share of the rebate, opting out of Schengen, saying no to the fiscal pact and the list goes on. For a party who rejected the Lisbon Treaty over fisheries, what will they do even with the reformed CFP policy? No country in the history of negotiations in the EU has succeeded in obtaining 100 per cent of their objectives.

So with these red lines the SNP will march off to Brussels the day after independence to negotiate. Meanwhile they will also be marching to London the day after independence to negotiate the terms of Scotland’s break-up from the United Kingdom too. I hadn’t realised that the SNP were setting up a job creation scheme for constitutional lawyers. Which Ministers are going to go where? The concept that Scotland would be negotiating membership of the EU from within the EU is challenged by the UK’s own legal advice on the issue which is now in the public domain. Where is the equivalent Scottish Government’s legal advice?

If we accept the official published legal advice of the UK Government that if Scotland became independent it would  no longer be a member of the EU and have to apply as a new member state then it would not just be Brussels and London Scottish Ministers would be flying to, it would be the twenty six capital cities (let’s, for numbers sake, assume that the ministers in London and Brussels can hold parallel talks) as the 28 member states and their parliaments will all have to approve Scotland’s membership. From my basic calculations there are not enough Scottish Government ministers, never mind teams of ministers, who would be able to conduct these negotiations and there is also the small subject of governing Scotland whilst these talks are being conducted. To top it all, the SNP have said they can do all of this within 18 months. Iceland started their negotiation in 2010 and they are still no closer to joining.

Unless, in addition to their sideline in creating jobs for constitutional lawyers, the SNP are also running a sideline in jobs for diplomats, a job growth area in Scotland would also appear in the diplomatic service. Not even the most adept, talented mutlilingual diplomatic service in the world could turn this around in the timescale suggested. And then there is the small question of membership of the UN, WTO, NATO, ILO and the other international organisations which an independent Scotland would have to join. Meanwhile the people of Scotland are facing uncertainty at their workplaces, jobs threatened, people made redundant, public services cut and family incomes being eaten away when the cost of food and fuel goes up. Whilst the number of food banks increases, why are we wasting valuable resources on a nationalist obsession which brings no real tangible benefit to the day-to-day lives of Scottish people?

The positive choice come the referendum is voting for Scotland to remain firmly part of the United Kingdom – a positive “no”. The choice is yours.

Catherine Stihler is a Scottish Labour Member of the European Parliament. Follow her on Twitter at @c_stihler_MEP.

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11 thoughts on “From automatic to stuck in first gear

  1. “Meanwhile the people of Scotland are facing uncertainly at their workplaces, jobs threatened, people being made redundant, public services being cut and family incomes being eaten away when the cost of food and fuel goes up. Whilst the number of food banks increases”,

    Incase you didnt notice ? this is the current cost of being in the union.

      1. Why dont you explain exactlly what you mean by “Nat mindset. Fab”, based on my comment ??? Instead of just leaving it hanging out there, lets hear it.

        1. Certainly. The nat mindset is to regard everything bad in Scotland as the “cost of being in the union”, irrespective of the complete lack of evidence to support this. High benefit dependency? The Union’s fault. Low life expectancy? The Union’s fault. Disappointed by the last episode of “Lost”? The Union’s fault.

          It’s why this so-called “positive case for independence” is a myth and a lie; pretending that everything that is wrong in Scotland will be put right simply by changing our constitutional status isn’t making a “positive case” – it’s kidding yourself and trying to kid the public. The latter, fortunately, are not as gullible as nats.

          You’re welcome.

  2. This from the party that still refuses to give the people a say on whether we sould remain within the EU. Unbelievable.

    1. Allan

      The SNP want to provide the electorate of Scotland with a Parliament where they and they alone can make the choices leading to electing political parties with their own political agendas which will have to be tailored to Scotlands needs and wants whether that means in or out of the EU.
      As long as we,re in the union Scots will never have the opportunity to express their needs and wants with regards to any foreign policy at all as they only have 5% representation in a Parliament that doesnt care what its needs and wants are as a nation.

  3. Now I’ve been around in Scotland a very long time now and always been politically aware of what was going on. To the best of my knowledge the SNP have never changed their stance upon the position regarding Europe. Could the author cite when they are alleged to have done so?

  4. Catherine Stihler’s basic premise seems to be a bit hazy. Given a yes vote in autumn 2014 is she claiming that the EU would refuse to negotiate with the Scottish government between then and March 2016? On what grounds would they refuse to negotiate? During this period Scotland would be within the EU as it would still during this period be part of the UK. Also a further question for Catherine Stihler – what would the UK government’s position be during this period? Would it be in the interest of the rUK for Scotland to be denied membership of the EU by March 2016? Her whole thesis rests on the unproven assumption that all the other member states of the EU and the rUK would want to punish Scotland for daring to vote for independence. What evidence is there for this? There cannot be that much to negotiate about anyway, as Scotland already meets all the EU criteria. The various UK rebates and op-outs will clearly be subject to negotiation, but then the rUK may have to renegotiate their rebates and opt-outs. How long can that take. Scotland, for all Catherine Stihler’s bluster will not be in the same position as Iceland, which has never been a part of the EU. More scaremongering is no substitute for presenting a positive case for how remaining in the UK will benefit Scotland in the future.

  5. This opinion from Catherine Stihler is very interesting; yet again we have Labour being negative about our counties future prospects. If we were to vote Yes in 2014, what is the position Labour politicians elected into positions in Scotland will take; are they to attach their own country and ignore their constituents or can we expect them to accept a democratic decision and get on and do the best for their country?

    Am I to expect that Unionist MEP’s will take the next 18 months to brief against their country and engage with others to deny Scotland a positive future in the EU?

    There are issues we will have to work through. As we share a land border with the RUK, it is improbable that we will be able to accept membership of the Schengen much as I would like that as it makes travel so much easier. As I travel about I come to dread the attitude of the UK border Agency in its handling of persons entering the UK. We are treated like cattle and with no courtesy or humour.

    Whilst I would not expect her to embrace independence; going by her article Ms Sthiler would rather mock from the sidelines; whilst I agree you can never get all you want from a negotiation, that’s why is called a negotiation. All sided must press their best interests but eventually, an agreement will be reached.

  6. Scotland’s EU bombshell? It’s bunkum from Barroso

    Nobody stopped to analyse what Barroso had actually said. I have spent the best part of three months chasing the European commission to explain to me whether his words were merely his opinion, or whether they had some basis in EU law. The answer – inasmuch as the commission’s finely crafted stonewalling can be termed an answer – is that, in legal terms, what he said was bunkum.

    Rather than political mischief-making working for Scotland is why we elect Scottish MEPs.

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