Jim Sillars: Who says we must coorie up to the EU?

Jose Manuel Barroso's swipes at Scotland make no sense in the EU context. Picture: Getty
Jose Manuel Barroso's swipes at Scotland make no sense in the EU context. Picture: Getty
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One day an independent Scotland is locked out of a monetary union with England (to which I say hooray), and on another day we are threatened with eviction from the European Union after 40 years of membership if we dare to vote for peaceful, democratic change.

An add-on to that piece of EU hypocrisy is the insult from Jose Manuel Barroso, the Portuguese president of the European Commission, to compare us to Kosovo, a small state or statelet, torn out of Serbian territory by war.

In its aid policy, the EU puts great emphasis on what it calls “governance” and “democracy” – that is that people are entitled to elect the government they want, have that government run the administration free from corruption, and have the right to make fundamental changes to their country as long as it is done peacefully and by an honest ballot.

We may quibble about Alex Salmond’s tartan trews, and criticise Kenny MacAskill’s creation of a single police force, and his attempt to remove corroboration from the justice system, but all of us would agree that our Scottish Government is free of corruption, is responsible to a directly elected parliament, and that the coming referendum will be conducted in strict accordance with the law. It is also the case that to its credit, Scottish nationalism has been constitutional, eschewing violence as a means of change.

I wonder just how often my fellow Scots are going to take these insults to our nation and our intelligence. We tick all the EU boxes. Membership for 40 years. Loyal compliance with every rule laid down by Brussels. Democratic, peaceful, honest, non-violent; seeking no more than was readily given to the small states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and to the people of the German Democratic Republic when German unity was forged after the Berlin Wall fell.

The GDR was, in international law, a separate state, it had formed a key part of the Warsaw Pact facing Nato, but its people’s passage into the EU was very smooth.

Is there a mark of Cain on the Scottish forehead that singles us out for abusive political treatment? Why is our ability to exercise the political freedom to choose whether to be independent or not subject to threats from the European Commission in Brussels, threats which our Scottish Labour, Lib Dem and Tory MPs and MSPs leap on to support with glee?

Can they not see the deep insult to Scots, or are they so anti-independent that their democratic principles have no value when put to a stern test? Do they not react with anger when we are compared to Kosovo, where atrocities were committed by the Albanians (once described as terrorists by the West) and their Serb opponents, in a vicious, merciless war? Have they no shame?

Happily, there is an alternative to the promised punishment at the hands of the EU, a proper Plan B. It is the European Free Trade Association which has a free trade, single market agreement with the EU called the European Economic Area. Every Efta member state has the right to trade with all members of the EU without facing tariff barriers.

Scotland is a small fisheries nation rich in oil. Efta is made up of the small nations of Norway (rich in oil and fisheries), Iceland (rich in fisheries), Switzerland (just rich) and Liechtenstein. Some Tories in London argue the UK should leave the EU and join Efta, but such a large country would dominate, whereas Scotland fits neatly. For years, the SNP has sucked up to Brussels, telling it that although there is a huge eurosceptic streak among Little Englanders, we are not in that camp, but supporters of all the Brussels elite is doing. A kick in the sore parts is what they have got for all that wooing.

Heed the lesson, Mr Salmond. If they are going to play hardball with us – as though we are a little people with whom they can do whatever they want – let us look elsewhere to a better deal. Efta is your much needed Plan B on Europe.

There’ll always be an England

Charles Moore, biographer of Margaret Thatcher, has wondered what to call the countries in the UK when (he says if) Scotland waltzes off. The answer is simple – England. That’s what millions down there, and their leaders, have always called the UK anyway. The Queen’s title says it all. Foreigners like president Putin and the Chinese think Britain is England, too.