Jim Sillars: Treat pro-EU scare stories and lies with contempt

BOTH the governments at Westminster and Holyrood are being ignorant and deceitful in pro-EU campaign, says Jim Sillars.

Thursday, 16th June 2016, 9:38 am
Updated Thursday, 16th June 2016, 10:43 am
Picture: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

LEAVE the EU, David Cameron says, and the economy will collapse and the state pension triple lock will spring open. Us oldies will be broke, our bus passes torn up. This is to be so, because we Leavers are “economically illiterate” when compared to the splendid, brilliant, masterly George Osborne who has run up a £1.6 trillion national debt, cannot balance the nation’s books and gifted us austerity.

Surely the SNP would not engage in any similar scare stories, given how it frowns upon the mendacious thunderbolts coming from Downing Street? Yes, it would, and does. The SNP pamphlet against Brexit is calculated to make the workers tremble with fear about their rights, women to worry about joining the pensioners in benefits abolition, and their babies denied the bonding that is the blessing of paternity leave.

Westminster and Holyrood scare stories are based on ignorance in the case of the SNP, and deliberate 
falsehoods in the Cameron versions.

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Holiday pay became law in Britain in 1938. Today, in British law, maternity benefits are set at 39 weeks, above the EU minimum of 14 weeks. Paternity leave in British law is 52 weeks, the EU minimum is four months. No British government, Tory or otherwise, has moved to cut those benefits. Why? Because it would be political suicide.

The only place workers’ rights have been torn to shreds is in the EU itself – in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and the European Court of Justice.

The Greeks voted against austerity, and they got more of it. In Portugal, austerity bankrupted companies, leaving workers with unpaid wages, and teachers were sacked.

In Ireland, public sector workers had wage cuts of 25 per cent. When Finnish workers tried to stop their employer, passenger ferry company Viking, shifting its flag to Estonia so it could sack them and take on Estonians at cheaper rates, the ECJ came down on the side of the employer.

What about the scare that we won’t be able to trade with the EU? Look at the figures. EU exports to UK: 
£290 billion. UK to EU: £228bn. A £62bn advantage to them. There are millions of EU jobs dependent on trade with the UK, so there is no chance of them putting up a wall against us, when we could put up a wall against them. That would be crazy for both sides, so it won’t happen. Trade will continue because common sense will prevail.

And how about TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership? Back in 2014, the British trade minister said there will be no special exemptions for our public services. The NHS and Scottish Water will be wide open to privatisation.

Vote Remain and you get TTIP. Vote Leave and you don’t.

• Jim Sillars is a former deputy leader of the SNP and Leave campaigner