Jimm Sillars: Think twice before handing EU power

Have your say

We are now a day nearer to Hearts players getting paid, Hibs playing a full game for the new manager and, of course, that historic referendum promised for the second half of the present Scottish Parliament, but which SNP opponents are apparently anxious to have right now.

Opposition parties claim Alex Salmond has no mandate for his timetable because the SNP manifesto merely stated there would be a referendum, with no “second half” reference. But Alex did say, during a leadership hustings, that it would be in the latter part of the parliament. In any political context that constitutes a pledge to the electorate.

The simple truth is that the Unionists think they will win a referendum on independence if held now, while Salmond needs to buy time for the SNP to do the detailed work that will enable the party to answer all the questions on all the issues that will arise from the people so that when the big day arrives, he can win.

I do hope, on one big issue, that on the long plane journey to China, Alex has sat back, put his official papers aside and engaged his brain in a thinking session – about the SNP position on the European Union and its troubled euro.

I framed the SNP’s policy of “Independence in Europe”. At that time, the late 1980s, there were 12 member states and a wide national veto was still in place. Today, almost 25 years later, we have 27 member states, with 17 sharing a currency, and with the national veto having given way in so many areas to majority voting.

The EU is a very different body from the one the SNP sought to join, not only in numbers but in its centralising powers and its ability to sweep aside elected governments the Brussels Commission, the Germans and French do not like. Yet the language of the SNP in the new pamphlet “Your Scotland, Your Future” shows it is anchored in that bygone 1980s era.

Has no-one read the Lisbon Treaty, which extends the powers of the central institutions over member states, further erodes the national veto, and sets the framework for forging a United States of Europe? Has no-one understood that member states no longer “share” sovereignty but have seen it transferred permanently to a new sovereign power in Brussels?

This is an EU where Greece and Italy, under pressure from the Commission, Merkel and Sarkozy, now have governments of technocrats whom no-one elected. That trio have seized charge of, and mishandled, a currency policy that may plunge the whole world into an economic depression.

In the 1980s, the top table was worth getting a seat at. Not now. Real power in the EU is exercised, not by 27 members, but at a small exclusive table for two – Germany and France. Just look at the Irish experience.

On Monday, the Irish government announced its new austerity budget, but it was examined by the German Bundestag first, before it was put before the Irish parliament. So much for Irish sovereignty. Although there are 17 Eurozone members, no other voices except those of Germany and France have been heard deciding on new treaties and new powers to police national budgets and administer punishments to the member states Brussels disapproves of.

Where are the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, to mention but a few of the 17, as Berlin and Paris decide their fate? This is not the EU which the party was happy to join in the 1980s. We are witness to dictat and profoundly undemocratic actions. You will often hear SNP members talk about Norway, but they never talk about how Norway has the advantage of free access to the EU markets, without being tied hand and fist by Brussels, still able to exercise sovereignty over its own fisheries, foreign policy, home policies etc. It has that access because of the European Economic Area, which sees the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which Norway is a member, engage in free trade between themselves.

That gives Norway what Scotland needs – access without tariffs to the EU markets. Norway and other EFTA members must abide by EU rules on the single market. There is, however, no transfer of Norwegian sovereignty. The EU does not rule in Oslo.

If the SNP sought membership of EFTA instead of the EU, Brussels, Germany and France wouldn’t rule in Edinburgh either. Slavish adherence to the old EU policy, with the EU now exposed with its false claims to be the centre of democracy, will endanger the SNP in the referendum. It is time to slaughter this sacred cow of a policy. It isn’t the only one either that should be dispatched.