Speech given at SNP for Leave Press Conference – Dundee – 2nd June 2016
Let me begin this speech by stating that I am here in a personal capacity – not as moderator of the Free Church, which does not take a political stance, or director of Solas, or as a Dundee supporter, or a member of Dundee Chess club. I speak in a personal capacity. I am an SNP supporter and I cannot be described in any way as a little Englander or some kind of right wing Tory pining for the British Empire. I am a pro-European who is opposed to the European Union.
I have seen SNP policy change on the EU from being for leaving, to now seeing any desire to leave as almost some kind of apostasy. It is striking that, in the new atmosphere, no SNP MSP feels free to speak out for leaving the EU. I find it difficult to believe that every single one of the 63 SNP MSPs and 54 MPs is pro-EU. If so, we really have entered the realm of the Stepford politician! Such groupthink on such a complex issue is, to say the least, disturbing.
I am conscious that many MSPs are genuinely pro Remain and I respect them and their views. However, between 30-40% of SNP supporters are for Leave and I want to speak on their behalf and urge the party to either change its policy or, at least, give a voice to those of us who support the idea of Scotland leaving both the UK and the EU. These are my reasons:
- It is inconsistent to ask that Scotland should become a nation independent of Westminster whilst at the same time arguing that it should be a nation dependent on Brussels. I know the argument that we would have our voice and say, but that voice would be tiny; one commissioner in 29 and a handful of MSPs in the European Parliament. We have a far larger influence in the UK parliament than we would ever have in the EU. The sound bite slogan that ‘Independence and interdependence go hand in hand’ could of course just as easily be applied to the UK. So can the SNP explain why it should not? Furthermore, by any standard, the EU is much less democratic than the UK parliament. The notion that a people should determine its own policies is surely one that is core to the SNP? Handing power over to other nations and corporate interests is against everything the SNP should be standing for. Scotland’s fishermen, farmers and industrial workers should be governed by Scotland’s politicians, not those of either the EU or the UK. The SNP argue for an ‘Independent country in an interdependent Europe’. It is a strange kind of independence when you are not free to make your own laws or your own trading agreements.
- The SNP policy ‘independence within the EU’ is not what is on offer here. We are not talking about Scotsit but Brexit. The SNP are urging us to vote to remain in an undemocratic EU where we will be represented by a commissioner appointed by the Conservative government in Westminster. It is the worst of both worlds.
- To vote to stay in the EU is, in effect, a vote to stay in the UK. The SNP policy of supporting the UK remaining in the EU is one that makes its primary goal – Scottish Independence – less likely. If the UK stays in, David Cameron and his Tory allies will have won and it is unlikely that in the foreseeable future there will be any referendum vote for Scottish independence. In supporting the British government EU position, the SNP are saying goodbye to Scottish independence for the foreseeable future. This is even more so when you realize that the EU interfered in the Scottish Referendum and made it pretty clear that Scotland could not automatically expect to be accepted as an independent nation within the EU. The bottom line is that if the UK votes to stay in the EU, if Scotland were then to eventually vote to leave the UK, it is highly unlikely that the EU would accept Scotland as an independent member. Countries like Spain would not want to encourage independence movements in their own country. On the other hand, if the UK does vote to leave, and Scotland then votes to leave the UK, the EU would then accept Scotland, because it wants to expand!
- The EU is undemocratic. The irony here is that when the SNP, Labour and other self-styled progressives give us reasons for staying in the EU, they cite things such as workers rights, etc. What they are in effect saying is that if Scotland were to govern itself, we Scots could not be trusted to have workers rights. Instead, we have to rely on unelected Eurocrats to protect us from ourselves. The SNP say they want us to have a stronger voice in Europe – but that voice is pointless if we have no power. The way that the EU is set up at the moment, there is no possibility of that happening. If anything, the EU is going to become more centralized. As the Spectator puts it:
“Every pro-EU argument boils down to ‘you can’t trust the plebs’.”
- The EU is for the ‘haves,’ not for the have-nots. It is quite evident that the establishment in most countries (including Norway) are mostly keen on the EU, whereas many of the people, especially the poor are not. This is because the EU has become a club of the corporations. It is about corporate power in hand with government establishments ensuring that whilst there are banks ‘too big to fail’, manufacturing industries like steel are left to go to ruin. The fact that a progressive party like the SNP, supposed to be on the side of the poor, is standing side by side with Osborne and Cameron, together with their friends in the city and the big American corporations desperate to get a TTIP deal, is something that should be challenged, not celebrated. The EU is a politician’s and bureaucrat’s dream and a democrat’s nightmare. We have been bought and sold for Brussels gold.
- The UK and Scotland could thrive outside the EU. The SNP state that one in seven jobs in Scotland is dependent on the EU and that, if we leave, 330,000 jobs could be lost. This is based upon the fanciful doomsday scenario that if we leave the EU we will no longer do ANY trading with Europe. Why should we not belong to the European Free Trade Agreement? It is disappointing that a party that rightly complained about the Project Fear scaremongering tactics in the Scottish Referendum used by the Tories, should now be allying with those same people and using exactly the same tactics. Whether it is the extremist rhetoric of David Cameron (ISIS would love Brexit, it would cost each family £4,300, World War 3, the bubonic plague will return…) or the much nicer, but just as irrational, fears put forward by ‘progressives’ (a return to the Dark Ages, Tory austerity enforced forever – on this latter point they seem not to have noticed that we have had Tory austerity in the current EU), Project Fear is an immature way to do democratic politics. The people of Scotland deserve better.
- Scotland should be in charge of its own immigration. This is not said from any anti-immigrant xenophobia but precisely for the opposite reason. We need more immigrants in Scotland not less. But we need to control our own borders and not have them controlled by an unelected EU Commission. The recent case of the Australian family in Dingwall facing deportation indicates the kind of nonsense that an overcrowded England is now forcing to be applied in Scotland as well. We want a Scotland where people are welcome from all over the world, not one where only those inside Fortress Europe get privileged access.
- A Vote to stay in the EU is not a vote to Remain. The EU will not stay as it is. In 1975 we were voting for a Common Market – a trading agreement – yet the Treaty of Lisbon brought in foreign policy and military arrangements. If we vote to ‘remain’ we are giving carte blanche to an EU superstate. This vote is a chance for us to remain as a free country.
For all these reasons and more we are opposed to the UK remaining in the EU and we believe that the SNP, for the sake of short term political gain, have been hoodwinked into accepting a policy that is regressive and ultimately harmful to the people of Scotland. Democracy, accountability, economic justice and independence are the reasons why we would urge all SNP to vote leave.
Footnote: We note with interest that the ubiquitous unnamed SNP spokesperson has declared: “This organisation is not a registered campaigner in the EU referendum, has nothing to do with the SNP and its main spokesperson is not even a party member.” This is wrong in almost every respect.
Firstly we are part of the Scottish Vote Leave campaign. Secondly, we have everything to do with the SNP – we represent the group of at least one third of members and supporters who intend to vote leave. The party machine, and those dependent on them, might like to ignore these supporters but that is hardly the actions of a party interested in democratic debate to do so. I am not the main spokesperson but just simply one voice amongst many – most of whom are SNP members. It is disappointing that the SNP leadership rather than engage in the debate chose to denigrate and seek to sideline those of us who are their supporters but don’t agree with this very divisive policy.
If the SNP leadership are so sure that this is the right option to take for Scotland, then instead of engaging in sound bite sloganeering and seeking to silence any opposition, why don’t they agree to a proper democratic debate? If Nicola Sturgeon and any of the current leadership are prepared to have a public debate with those of us who support Scottish independence from both the UK and the EU, then we would be more than happy to oblige. If you will forgive a minister giving one biblical reference – such a debate might be David vs. Goliath – but then we all know how that one turned out! The challenge is issued. Is the leadership willing to debate or do they prefer to enforce their policy in other ways? Do they have enough faith in their own policy or are they feart that the gaping holes in its logic will become obvious? Is the SNP prepared to engage in democratic debate, as is the Scottish tradition of radical politics, or will they follow the EU system, the persuasion of propaganda rather than that of democracy?
David Robertson…free thinking individual citizen who actually believes in democracy!
My other blogs on the EU:
I also add the following sent to me by someone who made some very good points!
This referendum has the wrong question. It relates to the EU as it exists now. But following the Treaty of Lisbon the EU aspires to be a Federal State of Europe with its own armed forces and with its own foreign policy which member states will be required to follow.
Instead of the question Do you wish to remain in the EU, the more honest and
realistic one is: Do you wish to JOIN a new United States of Europe?
Secondly, it is open for the SNP to advance a case for remaining in Europe
with full membership. But can it do so when Scotland’s input is limited to 6
members of the Euro parliament (out of 750), has no ministerial or heads of
government representation on European Councils and no membership of the
The whole Euro set up is an insult to the nation of Scotland and leaves us
dangerously exposed to wrong policy making vide fishing etc. In short
staying in without independence reduces us from regional status in the UK to
sub-regional status in the EU.
That’s why I find both British questions unpalatable. In this banal
referendum, Scotland is irrelevant. One would think that might make the SNP
start an exercise in strategic thinking instead of siding automatically with
establishment political elites.
I don’t understand where the SNP is coming from or where it wants to go, save with the British flow. I suspect it doesn’t know either.
This was covered in the Dundee Courier –
See also – Fishing for Brexit