SNP set for a European volte-face

DH cropLabour Hame editor Duncan Hothersall says the SNP will be facing both ways again in the EU referendum debate; let’s hope folk start to notice. [This article first appeared in Progress.]

 

The European Union referendum looks a little different in Scotland than, I suspect, it looks elsewhere in the United Kingdom right now. That is not just because of a pretty solid political coalition around the remain campaign, and some strong polling numbers for remain among the electorate.

An interesting piece of analysis from the Estimating Constituency Opinion project says my home constituency, Edinburgh South, is one of the top five in the UK for remain supporters, with our neighbours Edinburgh North and Leith even more solidly in favour. While other parts of Scotland may not be quite so clear-cut, it is certainly the case that no-one is betting on Scotland voting to leave.

And in that assertion, of course, lies the reality of how the EU referendum is going to be played here. We will talk about the polity of Scotland up against the polity of the rest of the UK. Because everything in Scottish politics has to be about the last referendum. You know, the one about Scotland leaving the union of the UK. The one in which the Scottish National party lost the war but won the peace.

Ever since September 2014, the notion that a second independence referendum rests on some sort of trigger event has been a key narrative through which the SNP has retained and built its pro-independence support, while attempting not to alienate those who recognise the decision has been democratically made. If the UK votes to leave the EU but Scotland has voted to remain, so the argument goes, this could be seen as justification for the repeat of that ‘once in a lifetime’ independence referendum within about five years.

Once in a lifetime. Someone else used that phrase recently, didn’t they? Oh yes, it was George Osborne on Newsnight talking about the upcoming EU referendum. But that is not going to be the only linguistic similarity between the independence referendum and the Euro referendum we spot over the coming weeks. Because we are of course again talking about sovereignty, we are again discussing the value of a union of nations, and we are again facing an argument against that union rooted in nationalism.

Scottish Labour will find its internationalist and social democratic arguments for remaining in the EU will chime very comfortably with the internationalist and social democratic arguments it deployed two years ago in favour of Scotland remaining in the UK. They were strong then and they are strong now.

But the SNP is set for a European volte-face on many of its anti-UK arguments, and faces a tougher sell to a core vote, whose support for the EU has long been akin to its support for the monarchy – an electoral necessity, not a point of principle.

After all, when Nicola Sturgeon said recently that, ‘there are lots of jobs and investment in Scotland dependent on our membership of the EU single market’, it surely cannot have escaped her notice that the same point was made, quite successfully, by the Better Together campaign about Scotland and the UK. How can she deploy one version of that argument and decry the other?

When she said in the Scottish Parliament, ‘we believe that decisions about Scotland should be taken by the people who care most about the future of Scotland – those of us who live and work here’, did she not hear in that call an echo of Nigel Farage who says precisely that but substitutes ‘Brussels’ for ‘Westminster’ and ‘Britain’ for ‘Scotland’?

We should expect the EU referendum debate to be more muted in Scotland than elsewhere, precisely because the party of government here does not want their hypocrisy in these matters exposed to too much scrutiny. But it will also be sidelined by the small matter of a Scottish general election which, rightly, will take far more of our focus up to 5 May.

Both of these battles look, for now, like foregone conclusions. Scotland will return another SNP government, and Scotland will vote to remain in the EU. But some time soon the good voters of Scotland will run out of patience with an SNP which has perfected the art of looking both ways on every issue. When they do, Scottish Labour can proudly point to its consistent, principled stance throughout and maybe, just maybe, start to earn back the respect of the Scottish electorate.

 

Addendum:
After this article was first published on Progress, a Scottish colleague pointed out to me that I was being terribly unkind to Nicola Sturgeon.  She is in fact arguing for a Remain vote at the same time as she is arguing that a vote for Leave would trigger another independence referendum. So she is elevating the UK’s EU membership above Scottish independence in her list of priorities. It’s only right that I should acknowledge this.

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22 thoughts on “SNP set for a European volte-face

  1. Where to start?
    Oh, yes. By pointing out that Sturgeon WANTS the rUK to remain—for trade reasons? Would you think?

    Or I see the Morningside Muppet (AKA the much “vandalised” Ian Murray ) has asserted the SNP has tied itself in knots as to “why we should share sovereignty with our neighbours across the channel but not across the Tweed”.—–well that would be the FACT that the degree of SHARING is vastly different within the EU and within the UK.

    Or does Murray believe that eventually Brussels will exorcise the same centralised economic/social/industrial/defence/etc power over the UK (and others) within the EU, as the UK does over Scotland?
    No I don’t expect that he will think that, so we are being sold a false prospectus from Labour, but not for the first time.

  2. I don’t think the SNP are doing a European volte-face. In the most basic terms the UK and the EU are two entirely different institutions. The UK is a sovereign nation state.

    The EU is a supranational organisation made up of members like NATO or the UN in which states choose whether or not they want to be members of that institution, usually through the decision-making process of their national parliament.

    Will there may be similarities between some of the arguments and slogans deployed in the EU In/Out debate in broad general terms to that of the Scottish referendum, the SNP’s policy since the late 1980s has been ‘independence in Europe’ and so they are being entirely consistent with that.

  3. Labour are being a bit dishonest here. The argument Mr Hothersall puts forward only makes sense if you believe the EU exercises the same control over the UK/member states as the UK exercises over Scotland. Of course it doesn’t.

    The UK is a fully independent member state of the EU (like Germany and France et al). Scotland is currently (in EU terms) a peripheral region of a fully independent member state of the EU. What Ms Sturgeon and most pro-indie supporters want is for Scotland to eschew its peripheral status in the EU and become a fully independent member state in itself (like Germany and France et al). There is no hypocrisy in this. Its a logical and easily understandable point of view.

    In becoming a fully independent member state in its own right, Scotland would then have the power to decide its own future within the EU. Whether to remain, leave, kick up a fuss or be model members (like Germany and France et al). It would not depend on a larger neighbour deciding for it. Again, a logical and easily understandable point of view.

    Labour (and Mr Hothersall) cannot allow this easily understandable point of view to reach the masses though. They must muddy the waters and cry hypocrisy at every opportunity. Honest, logical debate is not for them. They cannot win being straight with people. So they revert to type, reject the truth and espouse their own twisted version of it. I wish I wasn’t so cynical about the Scottish (sic) Labour Party but decades of experience and observation have left me with that position.

    1. Ignoring the frankly unnecessary personal invective, I would point out the following:

      • EU membership involves the ceding of a level of sovereignty. If it didn’t, the arguments being used against it today would be baseless.
      • Scotland had the power in 2014 to decide its own future within the UK. Whether to remain or leave. It chose to remain, by a mass participation democratic ballot, and by a margin of 400,000 votes.
      • There is nothing dishonest in this piece. Nicola Sturgeon is making arguments about trade with the EU which she eschewed about trade with the UK. The precise same arguments. The only dishonest person here is the one denying that fact.
      1. Duncan right now Scotland cannot chose to remain in the EU or leave the EU that choice is going to be made for us by the English electorate as so many other choices are.

        Cameron is in power now because of the English electorate. Thatcher was put into power by the English electorate. Blair was put into power by the English electorate. Every PM we have ever had ever policy direction taken by every UK Government has been as a direct result of the English electorate.

        Wouldn’t it be nice if Scotland could choose its own fully Independent Government be able to choose for itself whether being in or out of the EU is good or bad?

        Because all the straw arguments you put up are meaningless and pointless to that fundamental point!

        Scotland cannot change its relationship with the EU this side of Independence and people like you insist knowing its a bare faced despicable lie that those decisions are best left with Westminster Tory Governments elected by an English electorate and UKIP pressure on that English electorate.

        Uncle Tam to the core.

      2. “Trade with the EU…..eschewed…trade with the UK”.

        Don’t you comprehend the EU is a trading zone, Duncan?
        The SNP want to remain IN the EU after independence.
        As, at the time of the referendum, did rUK
        So both a self governing Scotland and rUK would be in the same EU common trading area.
        So your comparison is entirely invalid.

        Its hardly rocket science, Dunc.

        1. Amazing how you flit between “the SNP” and “a self-governing Scotland” and pit that apparent single entity against “rUK”. As if there wasn’t a whole range of opinion on the EU across the UK, of which Scotland is an example.

          We would have lost trade if we’d voted Yes. The same arguments that won for No in 2014 will win for Remain in 2016.

          1. Pleased to have “amazed” you Dunc, with just a few words.
            If Scotland had voted YES, we would have been a self governing country—-nothing hard so far.
            rUk would have been our neighbours. Both at that time wished to remain in the EU.
            Got it ? No trade lost so far.
            As Greenland showed, any NEW arrangements concerning Scotland/rUK would have taken years to come to fruition. I think the EU would have been pragmatic enough to find a solution.
            But we would have had time to plan. All the countries round about us manage to trade with each other—-it would require a special cringe mentality to think Scotland would be excluded.

      3. I think you are being dishonest again Mr Hothersall. The pro-indie arguments on trade during the independence referendum were based on both Scotland and the rUK still being in the EU. In that situation there would be NO detrimental effects on trade, with either England or the EU, as Labour dishonestly maintained. The arguments now being made by the SNP are based on Scotland being dragged out of that “common market” against its will, in which case there WOULD be detrimental effects on trade. Again, its a logical and easily understandable point of view. And again, its an easily understandable point of view that Labour cannot allow the voters to see. So we have articles like the one above to try and fool people into believing there is something hypocritical about the SNP’s view.

        Its a shame that, despite both parties being on the same side in this referendum debate, Labour have decided to start a “Remain” civil war with yet another bout of dishonest SNPbad-ery. For Labour, nothing is about Scotland or the greater good; It is ALL about the SNP and how to get their toys back off them.

        1. What a disgraceful lie. Of course Scotland leaving the UK but remaining within the EU (if that were possible – remember Salmond’s EU legal advice turned out to be made up) would have had a dreadful impact on trade. We trade far more with the UK, sharing a land mass, a currency and a language, than we do with the entire rest of Europe put together. It is simply beyond justification to make the argument that Scotland leaving the UK would have had no impact on trade. You should be ashamed of yourself for even attempting it.

          1. “We would have lost trade if we’d voted Yes. The same arguments that won for No in 2014 will win for Remain in 2016.”

            Says who? The only legal advice the No campaign had with regards to Scotlands EU status was Lord Wallace. The Lib Dem liar who sold out his manifesto for a deputy FM post.

            The No campaign Project Fear arguments didn’t win the referendum Duncan they lost its already massive majority of support. We were already in the union. Project Fear nearly took us out. That’s its only legacy. Look whats its done to Labour. You’re unelectable in 3 Parliaments and local authority level. Your members are defecting to the SNP.

            You’ve got nothing but delusional denial to offer the people of Scotland that’s why you’re scrambling for list seats with your Tory brethren in Blue and Orange.

          2. We trade far more with the UK,

            So does the Rep of Ireland. Its trading status didn’t change with its Independence Duncan. In fact all of the Commonwealth countries trade status with the UK is not hindered in anyway by them being Independent from Westminster rule.

            So once again all the evidence points to the exact opposite of your demented “Project Fear” bullshit.

          3. I have not “lied” Mr Hothersall, but you have.

            Firstly, Alex Salmond NEVER claimed to have the legal advice you claim was “made up”. Unionists like yourself dishonestly misrepresented what he said in an interview to con voters. Even the interviewer, avowed unionist Andrew Neil, admitted Salmond NEVER said what dishonest unionists claimed he did. Unionists still maintain he did … they have to in order to maintain credibility … but they are none-the-less lying.

            Secondly, despite the most strident of claims by unionists, no evidence could be produced to definitively show independence would see Scotland kicked out of the EU. There is no provision for it in any of the Treaties. Indeed, territories that actually wanted to leave found it took many years of legal wrangling to achieve it. With no legal basis, no precedent and the prospect of years of diplomatic and legal gymnastics to expel us, pragmatism if nothing else would have seen Scotland retain its EU membership … in my opinion.

            Thirdly, given the above (and I know you’ll dispute it … which is fine), with both Scotland and the rUK STILL in the EU, there would have been no detrimental effects on trade with England with a YES vote. Your claim (with no actual evidence) otherwise does not make sense. How, if both countries were still in the EU, could trade be adversely affected? It’s a single market with no trade barriers. Not between England and France, England and Finland, England and Portugal or even England and Scotland. Your claim is straight out of Project Fear and utterly nonsensicle. Perhaps you could make a better effort at “justifying” it.

      4. Fair point but that door swings both ways.

        If pooling and sharing works and borders are bad for solidarity and trade, why aren’t Labour calling for more decision-making to be made on a European level, like pensions, welfare and defence?

        Tony Blair was true to those beliefs in wanting to sign up to the Euro and a more federal Europe and he is Labour’s most successful Prime Minister.

  4. ‘once in a lifetime’ independence referendum within about five years.

    Alex Salmond was expressing his personal opinion….funnily enough, personal opinions don’t actually make constitutional Law, and even if he stated that it would be once in a generation…..that is not in his gift to ensure happens…it lies with the democratic decision of the people of Scotland….

    there are lots of jobs and investment in Scotland dependent on our membership of the EU single market’, it surely cannot have escaped her notice that the same point was made, quite successfully, by the Better Together campaign about Scotland and the UK.

    a point that was irrelevant since trade would continue, since much of Scottish produce is , Scottish and cannot be bought or made elsewhere….a protection bolstered by the EU….if you want to drink cheap whisky …go for it..

    good voters of Scotland will run out of patience with an SNP which has perfected the art of looking both ways on every issue. When they do, Scottish Labour can proudly point to its consistent, principled stance throughout and maybe, just maybe, start to earn back the respect of the Scottish electorate.

    what …the principled bold stance of telling pensioners their pension was threatened on independence…despite Whitehall confirming in 2013 that UK pensions owed to Scots would be safe in an indy Scotland..?

    When talking of Labour the words Principled and Bold are not part of the vocabulary

  5. “Scotland leaving the union of the UK. The one in which the Scottish National party lost the war but won the peace.”

    From a starting position of 20 to 25% in favour of Independence we are now at or above parity with the pro union delusional.

    Duncan so desperately wants to believe the “FIRST” indyref was definitive and terminal but worse he wants everybody else to believe it too. No Duncan your self induced delusional state is not contagious.

    There is only one way this “War” of yours will end and that’s with Independence. And it looks like its coming to a town near you sooner rather than later.

    “Scottish Labour will find its internationalist and social democratic arguments for remaining in the EU will chime very comfortably with the internationalist and social democratic arguments it deployed two years ago in favour of Scotland remaining in the UK”

    So Labour is going to tell the UK its “Too Wee” “Too poor” and “Too stupid” to go it alone? Newsflash Duncan “Project Fear” lost the majority pro union support it didn’t retain it.

    And how will Labour present its “Internationalist” credentials to a world at War and a Europe toiling under a swarm of refugees thanks in no small part to the Labour Government under Blair and Brown? Not to mention the support Labour gave to Camerons warmongering efforts in Libya and Syria?

    “After all, when Nicola Sturgeon said recently that, ‘there are lots of jobs and investment in Scotland dependent on our membership of the EU single market’, it surely cannot have escaped her notice that the same point was made, quite successfully, by the Better Together campaign about Scotland and the UK. How can she deploy one version of that argument and decry the other?”

    Except “Project Fear” told us that a No vote guaranteed we remained in the EU Duncan and a Yes vote guaranteed we left. Just another one of the many exposed lies from “Project Fear” that has materialised since the vote.

    And it just went downhill from there as it always does with Duncans depraved deluded bullshit.

  6. This is what a real Volte face look like.

    “My starting point is simple. I believe that the decisions which govern all our lives, the laws we must all obey and the taxes we must all pay should be decided by people we choose and who we can throw out if we want change.

    If power is to be used wisely, if we are to avoid corruption and complacency in high office, then the public must have the right to change laws and Governments at election time.

    But our membership of the* Union prevents us being able to change huge swathes of law and stops us being able to choose who makes critical decisions which affect all our lives. Laws which govern citizens in this country are decided by politicians from other nations who we never elected and can’t throw out.

    The ability to choose who governs us, and the freedom to change laws we do not like, were secured for us in the past by radicals and liberals who took power from unaccountable elites and placed it in the hands of the people.

    But by leaving* we can take control. Indeed we can show the rest of Europe the way to flourish. Instead of grumbling and complaining about the things we can’t change and growing resentful and bitter, we can shape an optimistic, forward-looking and genuinely internationalist alternative.

    We can show leadership. Like the Americans who declared their independence and never looked back, we can become an exemplar of what an inclusive, open and innovative democracy can achieve.

    Are we really too small, too weak and too powerless to make a success of self-rule? This chance may never come again in our lifetimes, which is why I will be true to my principles and take the opportunity* to leave* and embrace a better future.”

    Michael Gove Justice Secretary.

    The NoNo campaigners dont do Irony it seems.

  7. How much ammo does a person need ? well lets remember it is westminster that picked the date of their EU referendum without any regard for the devolved nations having their general elections six weeks earlier, oh and thanks duncan for saying the SNP will win, I’m sure many labour members will be pleased by that.

    “Scottish labour can proudly point to its consistent principled stance throughout”, throughout what ? labour changes its principles more times than its collective drawers. eg (council tax).

    But my favorite is labour finding its international and social democratic arguments for being in the EU the same ones we used in the scottish referendum, “they were strong then they are strong now”, I sincerely hope you are right Duncan, and they produce exactly the same result for labour as they did last general election (one MP in Scotland).

  8. El Capitano you sorry to hear you suffering from SBS (SNP BAD SYNDROME) even when there is nothing to whinge about you cannot help yourself try opening your window and screaming out loud I am a demented Scottish Labour section Red Tory stooge who used to be werewolf but I am alright nooooooooooooooow

  9. What volte-face? We lost the independence referendum so we have to deal with the situation we find ourselves in & like many independence supporters I think having the EU reining in the worst excesses of the Westminster governments that you wanted to retain control of Scotland is a vital safeguard until we do get our independence.

  10. As a Scottish nationalist and pro-European, I will of course be voting for the ‘United Kingdom’ to remain in the EU. If England votes to remain then nothing changes. If England votes to leave, but Scotland votes to stay, then we are a step closer to independence. Which is a no-lose scenario for Scottish nationalists.

  11. There’s no contradiction, except on a very primitive and simplistic level. Those of us who support Scottish independence support staying in the EU for the same reasons that Cameron, France, and so many others want to stay in it; it’s in our interest to remain a member.

    And that is a principled position. Just as wanting Scottish independence is based on the same principle of what is best for us. If it isn’t principled to want what is best for your country, family, and fellow man, well, what is principle?

    Labour and you Mr Hothersall need to stop the petty point scoring and stop thinking you can make yourselves relevant again by playing with words. We learned and gained a lot by the experience of the independence referendum, and we now clearly see through your wordplay and spin, but it seems you and the Labour Party up here have learned nothing.

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