There is nonsense, and there is nonsense on stilts. This week Nicola Sturgeon found herself on the same side as Irish republicans Sinn Fein when she repeated her call that all four nations of the UK must agree to leave the European Union before it can happen.
Both Sinn Fein and the SNP launched their general election manifestoes this week and they both included the EU-veto policy. If one wanted to have an example of nonsense on stilts this is it. It is simply plain daft.
Firstly, I’m sure no-one needs reminding that it is the UK that is a member of the EU, not England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland individually. That means that when it comes to membership of the European Union it must and would be the people of the UK who would decide.
When Scotland voted last year to reject independence and stay in the UK that decision meant that we voted for the division of responsibilities between the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments to stay the same. For Nicola Sturgeon now to try to repudiate the outcome of the referendum by introducing a qualification to what being part of the UK means, is a betrayal of the Edinburgh Agreement to which her government signed up.
That concordat – where the SNP got everything it wanted on the wording of the question and who did and didn’t get to vote – also included a section saying that everyone was to respect the vote of the Scottish people.
Sturgeon should therefore respect that Scotland agreed to remain within the UK and that reserved issues such as membership of the EU remains the responsibility of the Westminster government.
Disagreeing about economic or welfare policy is to be expected and welcomed – an open democratic debate is vital – but challenging how the UK conducts its international treaties was put completely beyond her remit by her own electorate.
It is not just plain daft though, it is also hugely hypocritical.
Imagine the stooshie if a UK prime minister was to say that in any future referendum on Scottish independence all council areas had to vote to leave as well as the majority of the electorate. There would be a Twitter storm, demonstrations and much stomping of feet while the SNP cried foul.
How dare a British prime minister intervene in Scottish affairs, how dare he dictate the rules of a referendum would be the tantrum.
The logical extension of Sturgeon’s argument that Scotland should be able to stop a UK-wide decision on EU membership is that Orkney and Shetland should be able to halt Scottish independence if it wants to stay in the UK.
Clearly young Nicola has forgotten that a staggering 28 of Scotland’s 32 council areas voted No while only four voted Yes. Had the result been the other way around would she have been happy that four councils could block Scottish independence? No, because it’s plain daft.
Nicola Sturgeon’s motives in advocating this ridiculous notion are clear. Our First Minister has seen the polling that shows how Scots are slightly less Eurosceptic and believes we in Scotland would vote to stay in the EU while England would vote to leave. Such an opportunity to play us against the English is not to be missed and she hopes to grab it with both hands. But she is mistaken.
There have been polls in the past that have shown a Scottish majority for leaving Brussels behind and were we to have a proper debate about the issue the result could go either way. The EU debate is so low-key in Scotland that it is off the radar – as it is crowded-out by the SNP’s insistence on constantly debating independence.
Once people begin to consider the issues – such as the plundering of our fisheries and the huge cost – they might reflect that the UK should be more like Norway or Switzerland and be outside the EU.
They might also think it odd that SNP leaders object so much to so-called “London Rule” but are perfectly happy to have “Brussels Rule”. That’s a strange type of independence, what we might call independence- lite.
The First Minister may also care to consider the opinion polling by Business for Britain on the issue that shows the majority of the public in all four nations support the referendum being decided by an overall majority at a UK level – by all the British people – regardless of regional variations in the result.
Now this may seem a rather erudite and nerdy issue to many people and just typical mischief-making by Nicola – but it is much bigger than that for it illustrates just what Ed Miliband and the rest of the Labour Party can expect from the SNP if he makes the mistake of relying upon nationalist MPs to govern Britain. The SNP wants a veto on all sorts of issues, such as maintaining our nuclear defence to what goes in the budget. The list will be endless.
If no party has an overall majority it would be better for one to form a minority administration with the threat of another election if the Queen’s Speech is voted down than be held to ransom by political blackmailers.