Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Scotland In EU

This blog is normally the harbinger of doom and gloom on all matters Brexit. I don't know about everyone else but maybe it's time for something different.  Don't get too excited, though, because it isn't going to be all that much of a change.  Instead of the usual whining and complaining I'm going to gaze into the EU's crystal ball and conjure up a picture of what we could all soon experience as citizens of an independent Scotland in the EU.  Now, the departure of rUK will naturally lead to significant changes in the structure and mood of the European Union.  It seems timely to think about what it might look like and how those changes might affect a relatively small nation like an independent Scotland. Before going any further I must thank bjsalba for proposing this as an idea for a blog post.  If the post turns out to be sub-standard that is entirely my fault because the topic is pure gold.


Please join me on a mildly confusing journey of fact-finding and idle speculation.  Yes, let's all sit back and imagine a future where Brexit is complete (ok, it will never be complete) and Scotland is an independent nation in the EU (at least 150 times as likely as Brexit ever being complete).  That's quite enough preamble so let's dive straight into the hornets' nest of EU foreign policy.

Foreign Policy and The Big Three


If you came here looking for information about the pre-fame punk super-group and ego clash featuring Julian Cope, Ian McCulloch and Pete Wylie then I'm afraid you've made a terrible mistake.  Go right ahead and award yourself negative quiz points because that band was called the Crucial Three.  Oh, I bet you feel stupid now. The Big Three, in the context of the EU, describes the countries that have driven almost all crucial EU decisions on foreign policy over the last 40 years:  UK, Germany and FranceThese countries are the only EU members that have individual global influence, whether that be through trade or diplomatic relationships or military power.  Leavers who think that the UK was ever forced against its will into accepting EU policy have it completely wrong.  Just tell them Terry said so and they'll soon be eating a hefty slice of humble pie.

Yes, I know Humble Pie were a band but they had nothing to do with EU policy either.
It would be fair to say that very little of major significance happens in the EU without it being driven by at least one of the 3 "big" nations. Historically, the really big decisions were often initiated by the Big 3 at private meetings among themselves and then proposed to the remaining members of the EU.  Despite what many Leavers might say, the EU is not a dictatorship and nothing happens without first building EU-wide consensus through compromise and discussion.  It is still the case, however, that France, Germany and the UK have typically been the initiators and often worked in unison behind the scenes.  In some cases this led to tensions because the remaining 25 felt that their voice was being diminished. An example might be a Franco-German-UK meeting set up by Tony Blair to discuss Afghanistan back in 2001.  The uninvited nations felt that this was all just a bit too cosy and that they were being excluded from the decision-making process.  After all, there's a spectrum ranging from quickly outlining shared policy directions for future discussion all the way up to holding private meetings in a semi-public glare and then announcing the findings without airing them to colleagues for review. 

You're probably wondering what small countries get out of all this.  What is the value of being in a political union where all major policy is initiated by someone else?  Well, I don't think anyone would dispute that Slovakia doesn't have all that much power in international affairs. The same would be true for an independent Scotland.  Neither could ever have the power to drive forward a foreign policy initiative in the EU because they are far from having the power and influence to implement it unilaterally.  EU membership does, however, give smaller countries a chance to shape and amend policy.  That amounts to significantly more influence than they could ever have outside the EU.  There is also a strong sense of shared objectives in the EU.  For example, the will to protect the Eastern border of the EU is shared by Latvia and Lithuania and Sweden and Poland.  The UK's experience has often been that of 1 against 27 but that just isn't typical of the EU.  Small countries with a history of consensus politics have a lot to gain if they pick their battles carefully.

The EU recognised that this wasn't perhaps the most democratic path to policy proposals. As a consequence,  the Lisbon Treaty attempted to distribute power more evenly among the 28 members by introducing initiatives such as the European External Action Service.  Effectively, this applies formal process to what has been a haphazard and undefined route to major policy initiatives.  This is good news for small nations because they have more chance that their interests are translated into policy proposals.  The bad news is that a policy proposal is not the same as an implemented policy.  It is still the case that the decision to implement any given policy is left to variations of the Council of Ministers, where the Big 3 are very much still in charge.  An example might be the decision to impose sanctions on Russia by freezing assets and restricting visas.   The policy came from the EEAS right enough but the decision was ultimately taken by the Foreign Affairs Council, which is made up of the Foreign Ministers of all member states.

It is no understatement to say that the departure of rUK from the EU is a huge disruption to the historical balance of power in the EU.  What will happen?  Well, that is an unknown.  The Big 3 system worked because smaller countries aligned themselves behind larger ones - they got what they wanted through alliances with larger and more powerful nations.  The Baltic nations, for example, were typically aligned with the UK on most issues from attitudes to free trade all the way to sanctions on Russia. Would they align themselves around the interests of Italy or Poland or maybe even Spain?  There is definitely scope for another country to take the place of the UK as a Big 3 nation but that really depends on the attitudes of Latvia and Denmark as much as the attitudes of Italy and Poland.   This will likely sort itself out in time but right now it is uncertain what will happen.

Brexit means that Scotland will no longer be automatically represented by one of the Big 3.  Supporters of independence would probably argue that the UK poorly represented Scotland's interests in the EU so we're no worse off.  I would generally make that argument too but not on the narrower issue of foreign policy.  I would urge caution here because on issues strictly of EU foreign policy I would take the view that Scotland's interests have generally been in tandem with the UK's interests.  I can't imagine Scotland taking a radically different view from the UK, for example, on securing Europe's Eastern border or on peace-keeping missions in Georgia or the safety of international shipping in Somalian waters.  This presents a small problem for an independent Scotland:  how will it further its foreign policy interests through the EU after the UK leaves the EU?  Would it align itself around a more powerful nation in order to further its policy interests?  If so, would that be France or Germany? Would it join an attempt to promote another nation to Big 3 status? Could that conceivably be Italy or Spain? There is a lot to think about.

 European Parliament


The European Parliament  has 751 MEPs.  6 of those are from Scotland.  I'm pretty good at maths so I'm going to state here and now that 0.79% of all MEPs are from Scotland.   That doesn't sound very powerful, does it?  No, it doesn't but don't worry too much because the European Parliament works very differently from the way that foreign policy was governed by the Big 3.  What happens is that MEPs representing national political parties join supra-national groups in the European Parliament.  Labour, for example, sit with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, a coalition of socialist and social democratic parties.  The Conservatives, on the other hand, sit with the
European Conservatives and Reformists, which is a relatively small coalition of anti-federalist and Eurosceptic parties.  Votes in the European Parliament are typically cast according to affiliation rather than according to nation.

Let's round that up to 1% and take the rest of the afternoon off.
How will the departure of the UK affect the balance of power in the European Parliament? As an exercise, let's see what happens if rUK MEPs are removed without having another election. The answer is that not much will be materially affected.  The UK currently has 73 MEPs in Strasbourg.  67 of those will have to find new jobs after Brexit because they represent constituencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.   The loss of 18 Labour  MEPs is an approximately 10% loss to their European group, while the loss of 19 Conservative MEPs means a more significant loss of 26% of Conservatives and Reformists.  None of that really affects the balance of power too much because if we sort the groupings according to size the order of the largest 4 remains the same as it is now.  In fact, the largest political group in Strasbourg doesn't contain a single UK MEP.   The
European People's Party Group, containing MEPs from Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, can just ignore all this mess and carry on as normal.   One interesting result is the loss of 19 UKIP MEPs from Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy.  That would amount to a 42% reduction in the number of fascists, nationalists and generally unpleasant individuals in the European Parliament.

That's precisely the percentage chance he has of getting re-elected in an indy Scotland.
The next elections to the European Parliament are due to be held in 2019.  The EDFF could find themselves cursing Brexit because they might depend on Scotland returning David Coburn in order to maintain representation from a minimum of 25% of member states.  Anything below that 25% rule will lead to the loss of automatic funding and the probable disbanding of EDFF.  People of Scotland, you know what to do.  Anything could happen in 2019 but getting rid of David Coburn might turn out to be the single most noteworthy contribution that Scotland could make to the next European Parliament.  6 MEPs, after all, is the 6 that we've always had and is exactly in proportion with its population. 

Multi-Speed Europe

 

The idea of a multi-speed Europe is that Eurozone nations would forge ahead with deeper political integration, while nations such as the UK and perhaps Denmark and Sweden would retain a looser association with the EU.   As I'll explain later, this process is already in action and has been for several years.  The UK, however, was against the formalisation and acceleration of a multi-speed Europe because it was concerned that it would lead to the emergence of an inner core of EU nations making key decisions without UK consultation.  Even though the UK would never have participated in the initiatives of the inner core, their decisions could have had an indirect effect on the UK.  Moreover, the UK was obviously concerned about a loss in power over the basic function of the EU. Any inner core of EU nations would clearly be having regular meetings among themselves, thereby leaving the UK at the fringes of power.  As a consequence, the UK fought against the concept of a multi-speed Europe just as much as it did against any attempt to pull it into a tighter relationship with the EU.

The departure of the UK from the EU has not only revived the concept of a multi-speed Europe but it also allows the EU to implement reform at a much faster rate than previously.  The reason for that is that the UK has been the primary blocker of all EU reform since the introduction of the 2011 European Parliament Act.  This legislated to put every amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to a UK referendum.  The UK public has never been known for its fondness of the EU so this effectively stymied all significant change to the most basic functions of the EU.  Every time a Leaver says that the EU needs reform please remind them that the UK was the country that has been extinguishing all thoughts of reform since 2011.

What does all of this mean for Scotland?  Well, it means that an independent Scotland will need to work out the level of EU integration that it wants to accept because the EU is going to forge initiatives that permit deeper integration whether we want that or  not.  This might sound a little scary.  We're all a little unnerved by change, after all, especially when we feel that we're not in control.  Is there anything that should unnerve an independent Scotland? To answer that question we need to first understand what deeper EU integration actually means and how the multi-speed EU is already a living, breathing fact.

The EU is defined by its opt-outs as much as its opt-ins.  Ireland and the UK, for example, are not signed up to the Schengen agreement of open borders. That's why you need to bring your passport if you fly from London to Amsterdam but you won't need it for the onward flight to Munich.   9 EU nations are still to adopt the Euro.  Denmark and the UK both have a formal plan not to join the Euro.  Sweden is in a slightly different position in that has an informal plan not to join the Euro but a formal plan that it will one day in the unspecified future have a schedule to join the Euro when the conditions are judged to be favourable according to any metric they choose that just happens to confirm their view that joining the Euro is unfavourable. What about the European Fiscal Compact?  This is a set of rules that, among other things, limits the budget deficit of any nation to 3% of GDP.   The Czech Republic seems to happily get by without having ever adopted the Fiscal Compact.  The UK also managed it, although it hasn't managed anything happily for quite a while now.  For reasons that I will probably never fathom Spain and Croatia decided not to participate in the European Patent system.  I think you'll need to ask them why that was a big issue for them.  Scotland might be interested in the Single Resolution Mechanism.  This is a set of rules governing the rescue of failing banks. Yes, RBS, that means you.  Both Sweden and the UK opted out of the SRM.   I'll finish off with the Charter of Fundamental Rights.  Neither Poland nor the UK ever signed up to any shared understanding of fundamental rights in the EU.  Award yourself a gold star if you've noticed the pattern that the UK hardly ever opts in. What about Scotland?  Would it follow the same pattern in a multi-speed Europe?

The ability to opt out of EU initiatives has so far been a contentious issue and one that has been driven mostly by the UK.  The point of a multi-speed Europe is that the EU doesn't attempt to drag nations kicking and screaming into initiatives that they don't want.  The level of integration, and the attendant level of influence, will be more of a voluntary affair. Nations have the choice of joining in with the dancing at the party or sitting at the edges complaining that they don't like the music.  In difference to the UK, Scotland has less to lose if it chooses to sit at the sidelines because it isn't likely to ever be the centre of EU power.  That is definitely an option.  At the same time, though, it could be argued that small nations get more from EU initiatives because it removes a lot of expensive bureaucratic burden and replaces it with a guaranteed level of competency, transparency and certainty that can be attractive to foreign investors.  The path of deeper integration is also an option.

The elephant in the room is that Scotland isn't located in Central Europe and it isn't surrounded with other EU member states.   Scotland will have to balance its relationship with the EU with its links to rUK.   That shared border is clearly going to become more and more difficult the more that Scotland and England diverge.  A balance will need to be found to stop Scotland being left behind in the EU but also maintain some degree of convergence with England and Wales and Northern Ireland.   This is going to be a tricky path to negotiate because rUK has shown its intent to reject the political direction of the EU, while the departure of rUK gives the EU a chance to accelerate its programme of reform.  rUK will be tugging at the left arm, while the EU will be pulling on the right.

 

 The Thrilling Conclusion


I finished the last section with a speculative comment that Scotland would need to balance its relationship with the EU and its relationship with rUK.  It certainly was a bit of a cliffhanger, wasn't it? I've got the hang of this writing lark and some time ago I worked out a sneaky way to keep the punters reading till the bitter end. That's exactly the kind of sophisticated literary device that you can expect on this blog from now on.   Now that you're all here let's see how all of that tension might arise and how it might be resolved. 

The EU is currently formulating the Single Digital Market.  The idea is that a single set of rules will apply to the storage, transfer, distribution, copyright and ownership of data. Moreover, digital products will be regulated across the EU just like childrens' toys and hazardous chemicals.  It will touch on other areas such as digital access and privacy as well as infrastructure to make sure everyone can participate. To make this happen there will likely be a number of EU Regulations to govern the flow of data across borders as well as a raft of EU Directives that will ensure harmonisation across all member states of the EU.  The Scottish Government will be expected to implement the technical specification of all sorts of Directives into domestic law.  That might, for example,  include a rule that data can only be hosted in countries that sign up to a minimum set of standards. Now, lets imagine that rUK has abandoned any meaningful controls on digital data so that it can sell off NHS data to US insurance companies. It has done this to such a degree that it can no longer participate in the Single Digital Market. rUK, of course, doesn't want the Single Digital Market to happen at all because it will make it harder to do business in the EU.  What kind of pressure can it apply to narrow the scope of the DSM?  It no longer has any say over EU affairs so what can it actually do?  Well, it can start applying pressure to the Scottish Government by hinting at future rUK policy that will make it harder for Scotland to do business in England.  The hope would be that Scotland would take that message to the EU and campaign for modifications and amendments.  Scotland might choose to do this on occasion without any prompting from its southern neighbour when it becomes clear that a predicted loss in rUK trade is more important than uptick in EU trade. Ireland is also likely to end up concluding that its link to rUK is worth an occasional bun fight in Strasbourg.  The EU might not take this all that well if they get the impression that rUK is attempting to undermine EU policy.  This kind of relationship can only end in late nights, tension and indigestion tablets. 

In my imaginary future, rUK might have left the EU but it will still exist and it will still share a border with Scotland and people will carry on moving their bodies and goods and thoughts and dreams across that border in both directions.   Scotland will have to perform a physics-defying balancing act because deeper EU integration means more EU trade but that might come at the expense of rUK trade.  This kind of points to Scotland opting out of deeper EU integration.  I would describe myself as a Euro federalist so this makes me sad.   The truth is that we have to deal with the facts as they are and not as we'd like them to be.  The fact here is that those idiot Leavers have made everything much harder and without any measurable or theoretical benefit.  I do hope they enjoy their evenings of lawn tennis now that they'll never have to share the court with an Austrian or a Finn.

You might have noticed another cliffhanger in that last paragraph there.  Opting out of deeper EU integration might make life in the EU difficult.  After all, that's why the UK was against the formalisation of the multi-speed Europe. What other options might exist?  Aha, find out next time (or the time after that depending on my mood).

Over and out,

Terry

PS The UK has completely blown its chance at influencing the new multi-speed Europe.  By leaving the EU, the EEA and removing itself from the purview of all EU institutions it no longer has the opportunity to pull in allies that could have coalesced around the principle of loose integration. If only it had retained EEA membership through  EFTA it could have attempted to pull in Denmark and Sweden by showing how looser integration could be done. Instead, it seems to have adopted the position of zero integration.  Nobody is going to be impressed by that.

26 comments:

  1. Still reading, but good lord. I had to stop and comment on this bit.

    "One interesting result is the loss of 19 UKIP MEPs from Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy. That would amount to a 42% reduction in the number of fascists, nationalists and generally unpleasant individuals in the European Parliament."

    I knew the UK had been a lousy EU member, but jeez. A quarter of conservatives as well and only 10% of socialists. Yep, the EU is better off with us out.

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    1. The European People's Party Group is by far the largest conservative group in the EU. The group that UK Tories sat in was to the right of EPP. The group that UKIP sat in was even further to the right. That says a lot about the relative politics of the UK and Germany. I'm quite sure that many MEPs won't mourn the departure of the UK. It's all rather embarrassing, really.

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  2. Great article. One thing I'd like to point out is that an independent Scotland would not have 6 MEPs any more. It would have 11 or 13. Maybe even 16.

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20130610IPR11414/elections-2014-share-out-of-meps'-seats-among-28-eu-countries

    We're right between Finland and Ireland by population size, I think. One other consequence of the rUK pulling out will be the 67 seats getting reallocated to other EU members. 67 divided by 28 is roughly 2.3 each - but the lion's share will go to the smaller members. Basically, 3 each for the 20 smallest and 1 each for the 7 largest.

    So Scotland could jump from 6 to 16 MEPs. This, unfortunately, makes it easier for David Coburn to keep his job. Ah well, at least we'd have a Green MEP. I remember running the results from the last EU election until the 12th round - of the additional 6 seats, 2 went to SNP, 2 to Lab, 1 to Tory and 1 to Greens.

    Of course, a lot has changed since the 2014 european elections. Can't really use them as a baseline for the future, but I wouldn't be surprised if Coburn gained a colleague in those circumstances(eg. backlash from some of the 38% who wanted to leave and then ended up back in the EU).

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    1. That's a really good point that I missed. Scotland should get more MEPs after accession than it has now. The principle that "MEPs from larger member states represent more citizens than those from smaller ones" should work in Scotland's favour. It should also work in Coburn's favour, sadly.

      Thanks for pointing that out.


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    2. Here it is. I made a mistake - the Lib Dems would've gotten one of the extra seats, not Labour.

      Sorry for the long post!

      Round 1
      SNP 389,503
      Labour 348,219
      Tory 231,330
      UKIP 140,534
      Green 108,305
      LibDem 95,319

      SNP elected

      Round 2
      Labour 348,219
      Tory 231,330
      SNP 194,715
      UKIP 140,534
      Green 108,305
      LibDem 95,319

      Lab elected

      Round 3
      Tory 231,330
      SNP 194,715
      Labour 174,109
      UKIP 140,534
      Green 108,305
      LibDem 95,319

      Tory elected

      Round 4
      SNP 194,715
      Labour 174,109
      UKIP 140,534
      Tory 115,665
      Green 108,305
      LibDem 95,319

      2nd SNP elected

      Round 5
      Labour 174,109
      UKIP 140,534
      SNP 129,834
      Tory 115,665
      Green 108,305
      LibDem 95,319

      2nd Lab elected

      Round 6
      UKIP 140,534
      SNP 129,834
      Labour 116,073
      Tory 115,665
      Green 108,305
      LibDem 95,319

      UKIP elected

      Round 7
      SNP 129,834
      Labour 116,073
      Tory 115,665
      Green 108,305
      LibDem 95,319
      UKIP 70,267

      3rd SNP elected

      Round 8
      Labour 116,073
      Tory 115,665
      Green 108,305
      SNP 97,375
      LibDem 95,319
      UKIP 70,267

      3rd Lab elected

      Round 9
      Tory 115,665
      Green 108,305
      SNP 97,375
      LibDem 95,319
      Labour 87,054
      UKIP 70,267

      2nd Tory elected

      Round 10
      Green 108,305
      SNP 97,375
      LibDem 95,319
      Labour 87,054
      Tory 77,110
      UKIP 70,267

      Green elected

      Round 11
      SNP 97,375
      LibDem 95,319
      Labour 87,054
      Tory 77,110
      UKIP 70,267
      Green 54,152

      4th SNP elected

      Round 12
      LibDem 95,319
      Labour 87,054
      SNP 77,900
      Tory 77,110
      UKIP 70,267
      Green 54,152

      Lib Dem elected

      Total after 12 rounds: 4 SNP, 3 Lab, 2 Tory, 1 UKIP, 1 Green, 1 Lib Dem

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    3. That is interesting. 1 UKIP so boo to that. If pushed I'd rather the Lib Dems got a seat than Labour. Apart from anything else, diversity is always a good thing.

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  3. Terry, do you have any thoughts about how EU members will respond if the UK just downright refuses to allow any moves towards independence for Scotland, for example by refusing to sanction a referendum, and suppressing by force any attempt to use a different route?
    Some seem to think that the UK state would not do that. I disagree. History tells us that they could, and not only through the protracted struggle in Ireland.
    A government that has got itself into the mess that this uk government has regarding the EU could do almost anything.
    How would the rest of Europe respond?

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    1. The EU rarely gets involved in the constitutional affairs of member nations except when they undermine the principles of EU membership. I suspect that they wouldn't get involved in the UK's internal affairs, especially not now that the UK is a departing nation. Besides, that would set a precedent to get involved in the separatist movements in Spain. That is the last thing the EU wants to do.

      The right to self-determination sounds like something protected by the UN and international agreements rather than the EU.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination


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  4. Yes, I agree that the UN would be the appropriate international body to intervene if necessary, but it would be important that the EU at least maintained a positive vibe about Scotland and it's possible future as an EU member. Would they do that? If not there are those in Scotland who would use that negativity. The deep UK state will oppose Scottish independence with all its considerable resources, and it has its adherents in Scotland.
    What concerns me is this - if the EU, and its member nations adopt a "nothing to do with me" attitude to rUK suppression of the Scottish independence movement there are many fearties in Scotland who will cling to nanny, despite the illogicality of that position.
    Could one hope, at least, for some kind of clear statement about an independent Scotland being immeadiately, or at least quickly, admitted to the EU from authoritative figures?

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    1. I'm really not sure what to expect from the EU. I'm not expecting Juncker to come out with a definitive and official statement that Scotland would be immediately or quickly admitted to the EU in a specific timeframe. Apart from anything else, he doesn't have that power.

      Accession to the EU is a process and the speed of that process is determined by both sides. Scotland might, for example, want to retain UK opt-outs and rebates but the EU might not immediately agree to those demands without further negotiation and agreement. If Scotland decided to opt-in to a new initiative it might need to first prove that it could meet the obligations of that initiative. I'm talking off the top of my head here but there are lots of reasons why no one in the EU will put a definitive and guaranteed time for accession. We've already seen lots of positive noises from individuals at the EU with vague words such as "fast" and "simple" and "no reason for this to be complex" and "most welcome" and so on. That might be the best we're going to get for the time being.

      I'm kind of hoping that these informal messages of support are building up a momentum and that the idea that EU accession would be difficult or could even fail is on the wane. If that isn't the case then I'm not sure what would convince someone not yet convinced. Of course, I'm assuming that this is all being widely reported. It's probably not. That is probably the real source of the problem.

      All of this might change when the UK properly begins its exit negotiations. At that point, it is in the interests of the EU to stir it all up by sending positive vibes to Nicola Sturgeon. If I was in the EU I would hold fire on that until necessary.

      So, I think the EU is sending out positive vibes and I think that will increase as the UK exit negotiations proceed. Anything that could be said to be definitive probably isn't going to happen until independence is achieved.

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    2. Yes, I see that. Thanks for your clarity. I'm not really expecting more from the EU as a body or from individual members than has already happened at this stage. You are probably right that the positive vibes there have been already have been obfuscated, and sometimes lied about, by British mainstream media.

      The unbelievable incompetence of the U.K. Government is made worse by the fact that they will not tolerate opposition or criticism about Brexit to the extent of refusing to listen, and any contrary view to theirs about this, or Scottish Independence, is met with petulant anger. This seems to be echoed also by a substantial chunk of the English electorate, and by Scottish Unionists.

      I just wonder how far they are prepared to go.

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    3. It is quite extraordinary the way that the UK Gov have messed this up. Their response to the Scottish Government's white paper on keeping Scotland in the EEA was truly astonishing. It was no more than a memo sent on the day that the Article 50 letter was delivered. No discussion, no justification, no argument. Not even an attempt at giving the impression they had ever read it. Just a flat "no". This makes me hopping mad.

      I think the UK Gov are prepared to go all the way in ignoring Scottish requests. Incredible times.

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  5. Wow. Great piece.

    I salute the work you put into this excellent post.

    Will comment more later.

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    1. Thank you! Just making up for lost time.

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  6. When I read a piece like this, or the work of other informed writers, it becomes clearer and clearer just how incredibly complex, for all of us, this whole thing is.

    I've said on numerous occasions that the fact that all this is in the hands of feeble-minded politicians like May, Davis, Johnson and the idiot Fox, is very frightening. It doesn't help that there is a desperate shortage of qualified Civil Servants and qualified trade negotiators too. (A an article i read recently by Mr Dunt, talked about the complexities of quotas. I was trying to imagine Fox getting his head round it. I don't think it helps that they all seem determined NOT to listen to anyone who disagrees with them.)

    It's true that in all the chaos that has surrounded their handling of things so far in Britain, that many of us, me included, have looked at the positive messages coming from Europe about Scotland and assumed that it would all be plain sailing, as long as we can get a positive vote in the referendum.

    You've made it clear why that is a tad on the optimistic side, and explained with great clarity, why.

    It's maybe not what many people would want to hear, but we have criticised the Brits for their lack of openness and honesty about Brexit. We must ensure that we don't leave ourselves open to the same criticisms in "Scotstay".

    Once again, thanks for putting in the effort on our behalf, and to BJSAlba for her originating it.

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    1. One thing about Brexit that Leavers don't seem to realise is that it means the UK has to do more for itself. It will have a greater legislative burden and it will need to make more decisions. More decisions means more fact-finding, more scrutiny, higher budgets. I would argue that it even needs more democracy to replace the democratic institutions of the EU. None of that is happening. What happened instead of that a bunch of idiots have blustered month after month with cheap slogans. They've done nothing to make Brexit happen in an ordered way. Absolutely nothing. The discussion about what happens after Brexit seems to have been displaced by slogans about the Falklands war and dreams of Empire.

      The important thing is that Scotland doesn't fall into the same trap. Just as leaving the EU isn't the hardest task for rUK, joining the EU probably won't be the hardest task for an independent Scotland. Joining the EU isn't a strictly binary decision because it has so many facets. Some of those are optional, some might be adopted under light pressure, some might be traded for something else. It's a complex decision and we need to be prepared for that.

      Somehow or other a decision needs to be made about what kind of future Scotland envisages in the EU. Everything has pros and cons. If that isn't made clear it will be all to easy for Better Together to start banging on with half truths and lies about the Fiscal Compact and the Euro. Scotland also needs to work out how it will manage its relationship with England. These questions are harder to answer right now than they ought to be because the idiots at Brexit HQ still live in a bubble world where German car manufacturers will negotiate a bespoke deal with the UK. As you said, their ignorance is indeed frightening.



      Joining the EU is a decision that comes with pros and cons. Choosing the level of integration

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  7. Hi

    Good to have you back. Another excellent item which sets out some of the choices we'll have as an independent country. The freedom to choose will be challenging but a million miles better than the current situation.

    Saw the Wee Ginger Dug in person for the first time last night in London. There was a well dressed man with him who gave a very fullsome and entertaining speech followed by a lively Q&A.

    Seriously, Paul was very positive about our chances of gaining independence next time.

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    1. Glad to back.

      The freedom to choose is definitely 1000000X better than the current situation.

      I'm glad that bloggers can be well dressed. That is something to aim for. I'm far more glad that Wee Ginger Dug was positive about the chances of independence. The current situation is just not sustainable.

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  8. Well dressed bloggers; who'd of thought...

    Glad to have you back in full form Terry! Very informative article too.

    But while I absolutely welcome this level of information being produced & shared widely, and I hope like hell that Scotland's politicians, civil servants & the like, are keeping these complexities in mind I think we need to ensure we keep things as simple as possible for the ordinary voter. I mean, look at the kerfufill SNP voters are getting themselves in over how to vote using the STV system for the council elections. Even implying to such people (and they are already on our side) that iScotland in the EU is a little bit more complicated than saying 'I do' is only going to confuse the real message which is 'Scotland will be better off being independent from the UK', whether or not we are in the EU or EEA or EFTA or none of the above. Somewhere in all of this we (thinkers, bloggers, activists) need to produce a clear, simple, truthful message to take to the far larger number of Scots who care about their future but do not share even our (readers of this blog) level of understanding of politics.

    Hugh

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    Replies
    1. That's an excellent point. The combination of choices and consequences is complicated. I'm not sure what level of engagement to expect from a statistically average voter but it might indeed not involve enough investment of time to read about and digest the full spectrum of choices. I'm not sure how to communicate any of this to that statistically average voter who just doesn't have the time (or inclination) to read long-winded pieces like this on the internet. That is also complicated.

      Successful political campaigns always simplify the messy complexity of the real world into something much easier to digest. I'm not sure how that will play out for the next indy ref. Will the message be formulated by the SNP? Or by a broader coalition of independence supporters? Who gets to join in? Will it be formulated by opinion poll or focus group? I honestly have no clue because I have no experience of political campaigns.

      Whatever message is formulated I'm hoping that it will contain significantly more nuance and detail than the Leave campaign. I think it's important that people really understand what they are voting for if they vote Yes. I think it's important because the lack of information about the EU referendum has led to a complete mess. I don't even want to imagine the same thing happening to Scotland after a successful Yes campaign. A lack of preparedness coupled with a lack of consensus about what independence actually means will just lead to uncertainty in its implementation. That would be horrible. It also allows politicians to make policy on the hoof - if they're not tied to a plan they will just make up any plan that suits their short-term interest rather than the long-term national interest. The power grab of the Great Repeal Bill springs to mind.

      You don't need to worry about this blog muddying the waters or spreading confusion. I know the numbers and I can happily confirm that its electoral reach is negligible :)













      an independent Scotland could end up in a worse situation

      I'm going to draw a distinction between



      Nobody reading this blog falls into that category.

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    2. I'm not at all worried about this blog or its readers per she. But some of the readers may well go on to become campaigners & so should be considering the implications of any campaign strategy so I'm simply raising one concern that I have. But to answer one of the points you made in your reply above, I'm not really bothered about mistakes that may be made following a Yes vote. Sure, it'd be best to avoid as many mistakes as possible but the danger I fear is by spelling out all the complicated implications of independence we will encourage people towards the 'safety' of the status quo. That, after all, is what happened last time around. Many of us said the cost of voting No in 2014 was going to be high & we are being proven right. The cost to Scotland of voting No a second time do not bear thinking about & I honestly think that would spell the end to independence for another century or so. I've said before to other Indy supporters who argue about the type of country that Scotland should become, 'let's buy the house before we start rearranging the furniture' & I think this issue is yet another 'piece of furniture' that we do need to consider but not at the expense of winning independence in the first place. I don't care of the decade after independence is a bit of a shambles because it will be worse, a lot worse, if we don't win.

      Hugh

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    3. Apologies for typos & lack of paragraph breaks above: working with my phone. Grrr.

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    4. This is a really interesting discussion. It's interesting because it has moved way past the limits of this blog. Despite that, I still have an inexpert opinion.

      I take the view that most of the choices available to an independent Scotland are better than the alternative of remaining in the UK. Defining "better" is hard because it means different things to different people and people usually focus on their own lives. Even if we agree on an aggregated definition based on GDP, employment statistics and life expectancy there will still be a percentage of the population who lose out somehow or other. The size and distribution of that losing population depends on the choices made by an independent Scotland. I can easily imagine scenarios where more people lose than gain. For example, an independent Scotland without any meaningful trade with rUK or EEA would produce a majority losing population. I can also imagine that the combination of Scotland tightly bound to the EU and rUK floating off into the mid-Atlantic could also generate a majority losing population.

      Most available choices seem like clear aggregate wins. My view is that some might be worse over all time-frames. I think that is where our opinions differ. I don't like the idea of buying the house without a plan because it could end up worse than never having bought the house at all. Brexit leads the way here as a perfect example. Voters chose Brexit without any knowledge of what it meant for their livelihoods, for their living costs, or for their available life choices. The UK Government is now deciding the meaning of Brexit. In fact, the EU will ultimately decide what Brexit means. The EU no longer has the well-being of UK citizens in mind. As a consequence, Brexit will likely end up worse for Leavers than not exiting the EU. Had the Leave campaign be tied to a firm plan, would Brexit have happened? I don't think so but we'll obviously never know that for sure. Even if it had been tied to a plan would that plan have been the madness that we're seeing now?

      I'm rambling a bit but I think the idea of a firm plan is important because without that we give politicians the right to decide for us. I just don't trust them enough to make the right decisions.



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    5. Aye indeed. I don't trust politicians further than I can kick them so I could share your desire for a "firm plan" except that life really isn't like that.

      If we were discussing a 5 year term of an elected government we should expect some commitment to the firm plan of manifesto pledges but here we are talking about the binary choice of independence or remaining in the UK for the unforeseeable future. I have no idea what a future Scotland might look like: it might be some fascist hellhole or a socialist utopia but either way, if it gets there by it's own democratic decision making process, who am I to say what is right or wrong? I, like everyone else, has a vision of what an independent Scotland should be but my vision of the future is heavily coloured by also being a citizen of another completely independent nation & recognising that independence does not equal perfection.

      Are the decisions made by New Zealand perfect? Not in the grand scheme of things. There are plenty of wonderful political decisions taken in that small nation but plenty of less than wonderful ones as well. But ask me if the course of that nation's history would be better if Westminster was still calling the shots instead of Wellington & you won't find me agreeing with the former.

      I really, really hope that iScotland becomes the sort of place I can be proud to call home but I'm not prepared to insist on anything like perfection being in place before we all vote for our political freedom.

      Hugh

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    6. There was some idea of a plan in the White paper that the Scottish government produced in 2014. It was fairly detailed, but of course it was, like everything else dependent on outside factors...like how the Uk government would react to its Scottish citizens who wanted to leave.

      It was, in any case about 600 more page of detail than the Uk had for Brexit.

      After all "Brexit means Brexit" is pretty skimpy when it comes to a plan.

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    7. I had a more detailed plan to clean out my fridge than anyone ever had for Brexit.

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