Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rennie: SNP assertions blown apart by fact


Scotland has had its share of political drama these past ten days. First there was the Edinburgh Agreement which saw Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore given an honourable mention by CentreForum. Then the Scottish Liberal Democrats unveiled their vision for Home Rule and a federal UK. Then last Friday, the SNP abandoned their opposition to NATO membership ahead of the Independence Referendum, a decision led to the resignation of two of their MSPs. This leaves Alex Salmond's Government with a tiny single vote majority in Holyrood. In practice, though, the two MSPs will mostly vote with the Government.

Then yesterday got significantly worse for Alex Salmond. There has been an ongoing row over whether an independent Scotland would have to join the EU as a new member. This would compel them to join the Euro and join the Schengen Agreement. The SNP say that this is not the case as Scotland would be a continuing member with all the UK's current perks. They have actively tried to create an impression that there was some legal basis to their arguments. In March, Alex Salmond, was asked a straight question by Andrew Neil:
Have you sought advice from your Scottish Law Officers in this matter?
Salmond replied:
We have, yes, in terms of the debate...
In fact, as Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood yesterday, no such advice has ever been sought.

What makes this all the more bizarre is that Labour MEP Catherine Stihler put in a Freedom of Information request earlier this year to find out if the Government had sought legal advice. The Information Commissioner ruled that they had to tell us. The Government's response was to blow a six figure sum in legal fees to appeal that decision. I can't imagine Scots will consider that value for money, particularly at a time when the same Government is slashing financial support for the poorest students.

Salmond's comments to Neil put me in mind of Bill Clinton's assertion that he did not "have sexual relations with that woman." Dancing on the head of a pin about definitions does not constitute the sort of openness and transparencies citizens are entitled to expect. It actually had never occurred to me that the Government had not taken legal advice. I wonder what will happen if Scotland's law officers advise that Scotland will not automatically be granted all the privileges of EU membership. Will the SNP tell us this before we vote or will they try to  hide behind the Ministerial Code?

The SNP had a fairly good reputation for credibility and competence which is now in tatters. The opposition parties have taken different approaches in dealing with this. Labour have been bullishly denouncing Salmond as a bare faced liar. I think they've put a few too many eggs in that particular pudding. Compare and contrast the quieter but, as Alan Cochrane described it in today's Telegraph "much better" approach of Willie Rennie. By using a parliamentary Point of Order, he forensically exposed the inconsistencies in Salmond's comments without using emotive language.

Later, Willie Rennie said:
For months the First Minister has asserted that an independent Scotland would be a continuing member of the European Union rather than a new member.  But the Deputy First Minister has now embarrassingly admitted she had no advice.  Everything that the SNP has asserted has been blown apart by fact today.
The SNP Government began legal proceedings over a document that didn’t even exist. The public will rightly be infuriated that thousands of pounds of their money was spent funding an SNP orchestrated farce.
He added that the SNP now has a duty to prepare for entering the Euro, with the economic consequences that would require:
Every country that has joined the EU since the Euro was introduced is using the currency or taking steps to do so.
If the same is true for Scotland then implications for our economy could be severe.
Scotland would be bound by the European Fiscal Stability Treaty to reduce the Scottish deficit to 3% of GDP. Using the Scottish Government’s own figures, the present Scottish fiscal deficit is currently 7.4%.
Taking the steps necessary for Euro entry would involve cutting the Scottish budget by £5 billion annually.
This is a possibility that the First Minister is duty bound to confront if he is to be open with the Scottish people
The SNP Government is  not in a good position two years out from the Referendum. There is no cause for complacency in the Better Together camp but the First Minister's personal and political credibility has taken a huge dent. His glib assertions that everything would be fine in an independent Scotland have been shown not to be nothing more than hot air.

12 comments:

Peter A Bell said...

Leaving aside the infantile attempts to smear the First Minister which will shortly backfire on all those foolish enough to participate, if Willie Rennie or any other British nationalist has a convincing, or even a plausible, argument as to why the EU would choose to initiate a totally unnecessary accession process for an existing member state when it has an infinitely more amenable solution available, I for one would be delighted to hear it.

And at the risk of inducing intellectual overload, perhaps the same person could set out the process by which the people of Scotland are stripped of their EU citizenship on Independence Day as British nationalist assert will inevitable be the case.

Pardon me if I decline to hang about in anticipation of an early or a meaningful response.

cynicalHighlander said...

Labour MEP Catherine Stihler

Enough said trying to stir things up to gain political capital, if the LibDems wish to go down that same Labour downhill road so be it.

cynicalHighlander said...

Poisoned politics

Where is this six figure number that you quote in your article coming from as the SG quoted a four figure number or are you counting pence now in the smearing techniques.

George W. Potter said...

I do like the way that SNPers love to claim that Scotland would be treated as an existing member state without any evidence whatsoever.

Now, personally I don't see any reason why Scotland shouldn't be allowed to be treated as an existing EU member but, given that this is a situation which has never happened before, only an absolute cretin would assume that the option they most like is guaranteed to happen when there's no kind of legal consensus at all.

If this is a fair representation of the paucity of the intellect amongst the SNP in general then I really feel rather concerned for the well-being of Scotland in general.

Don McC said...

George, if the Unionists had claimed that Scots would be stripped of their liberty/property/vital organs/some other scare-the-bejeesus-out-of-people nonsense, would you accept the SNP's assertions that this would most certainly not be the case or would you demand they publish the legal advice they'd received on the subject. Because that's what we're talking about here, something that Scots already possess (EU membership) will be stripped from them come independence day.

Rennie's credibility is already suspect but what happens if the EU confirm Salmond's assertions are perfectly correct? As Peter has already warned, he'll end up with the same standing as Scottish Labour politicians. But then, Rennie does seem to suffer from the same malady that infects Scottish Labour, that bitter hatred that makes them say and do stupid things for (very) short-term gain despite the longer term damage it inevitably ends up doing.

Munguin said...

How ridiculous that we are even thinking about taking a lecture on competence, credibility, openness and transparency from a unthinking nodding dog apologist for a party that insisted it had a right to hold on to stolen millions from one Michael Brown by using the fig leaf apology provided by the Electoral Commission that they had acted in good faith. But despite Southwark Crown Court deciding that Brown’s only motive in the UK was to steal and defraud and that he bought an elaborate network of lies to support that theft, part of which was clearly a huge donation to a political party to which he had hitherto no connection. And on what did the Electoral Commission base their decision that Brown’s company had operated in the UK? Why because they bought office furniture. So never mind doing the right thing there! There is openness and transparency for you.

That’s the party who had the dubious honour of having the first resignation from the coalition government because the MP in question was using public money to pay his partner’s rent. Despite them both being millionaires. And he felt that he had a right to lie about it. More openness and transparency?

That is the same party that’s honesty and openness prompted it to make a signed pledge to students not to vote for a rise in tuition fees and then do just that. A ploy that their leader made a cringe worthy apology about, not for breaking the pledge but for making it in the first place. No there is credibility and competence!

Well done Caron for jumping on the Honourable Paul Martin’s band wagon with your failed Fife MP leader and blowing this storm in a tea cup out of all proportion. Your efforts here transcend drivel.

Anonymous said...

Those born prior to "independence day" would retain their British, (and therefore EU) citizenship. Those born afterwards would automatically be Scottish citizens This is what happened in Ireland when it left the UK.

I don't see how EU citizenship would be stripped unless the individual choses to revoke his British citizenship.

Incidentally, Ireland then had to re-apply to join the League of Nations of which the UK was an existing member.

cynicalHighlander said...

This will maybe get past the profanity filter this time.

George This was written by Ed Milliband’s father (Ralph) just after the evacuation at Dunkirk:

‘The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world… When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the continent in general and for the French in particular. …. ’England first’ – this slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation.’

Salmond: I was right to withhold legal advice on EU and I'll do it again

More Questions than Answers

The BBC have a lot to learn in interview techniques which is why you are ignorant of Scotland and how us allegedly 'cretinous' Scots want to live our lives outwith the M25 centre of the universe.

George W. Potter said...

My my, look at all the hate and vitriol spewed by SNP supporters. Is it really so difficult for you lot to have a debate on a particular issue (whether an independent Scotland would automatically continue as a member of the EU with the same rights as the UK) without resorting to insults, ad hominems and desperate attempts to change the subject?

Apparently it is.

All I can say is that the best argument I've seen for Scottish independence is that it would spare the rest of the UK the childish behaviour of the cybernats.

George W. Potter said...

CynicalHighlander

Ralph Miliband was calling the English the most "rabidly nationalist people in the world" when Hitler and Nazi Germany were busy conquering Europe. I think that says all we need to know about his (lack of) perspective.

cynicalHighlander said...

George W. Potter
childish behaviour of the cybernats.

Oh the irony in attacking the messenger rather than the point in question which is we are EU citizens now and have been for decades and the EU does not evict its citizens. Scottish independence: Law officers 'approved EU documents' Now when you get off your high horse mind the step.

Anonymous said...

Who made the claim that the EU would evict its citizens?

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