When Douglas Hurd was in the Cabinet I used to get a delicious pleasure introducing him on the BBC with the words: Welcome to Scotland, Foreign Secretary. And today I wish William Hague many happy returns to Scotland in the near future to meet our Foreign Secretary.
I don’t know if you caught William doing his Rory Bremner on Radio Four this morning but he sounded like one of Her Majesty’s representatives pinged over to Nyasaland or Ceylon from Whitehall to remind the natives who they’re dealing with. There is a tone that is de rigueur for Tory ministers in which they turn the Reasonable dial one way and the Remorseless dial the other so they combine into a benign, educated voice gently threatening us with a journey to hell in a handcart.
It sounded as if it really hadn’t occurred to him that it was bordering on farce to warn Yes-voting Scots they would be ejecting themselves from the bosom of Europe when his own government is promising an In/Out referendum in three years time. Impertinence! Uppity media oik! He gave a Colonel Blimp reply about this meaning the Scots actually had two votes on membership of Europe. With the rest of the natives standing to attention beside the wireless, I furrowed my brow and wondered if Great White Man know what he talkin’ about.
I think that, like telling the Swahili house servants you are the boss because you know something they don’t, we are supposed to limit our thinking to what the Master tells us. If we do any of that joined-up thinking and catch him out, it will be the worse for us.
What I’m looking out for in this latest ministerial sortie into the Northern Bush is the Euro Question du jour: Mr Hague, when will you comply with the Commission’s offer of legal guidance on Scotland’s position if they are asked by the British government?
It wasn’t asked on Radio Four as they wanted to move on to the different subject of Britain yet again found out spying on their own citizens – in cahoots with the Americans who look increasingly like the new Soviets with their covert anti- democratic campaign against their own people, a business which makes us all suspects. (The Man from Whitehall waved it away with his fly swish. All perfectly legal….)
If you come across a journalist asking the European question of Hague, let me know.
There is now what looks like a flood of informed opinion on our EU membership which is washing up to the door of Better Together. The bald statements that We will be Out sound shrill and unconvincing as the weight of evidence shifts in favour of a speedy accession. The Barroso doctrine looks forlorn and its Unionist disciples, notably the MEPs, appear furtive, relying solely on the one sentence that separating from a Member State takes you outwith the Treaties. Not one of them has replied to the challenge of telling us how that will be effected…who stops Scots with British passports at Schipol and tells them they need a third country visa to enter…who stops trucks at Berwick to say the Single Market doesn’t apply to Scotland…who writes to each of us to say our European citizenship is revoked…who halts the diggers at the Scottish Centre for Ecology and the Natural Environment facility being built with EU money in Glasgow…who orders thousands of exchange students home without their degrees…who gets our financial contribution to the EU? Isn’t it the job of Euro MPs to get those answers for the voters ahead of September?
The experts I saw at the Scottish Parliament comprehensively rubbished the idea of Scotland being excluded which is a line I think will have to change soon to avoid the No side looking trapped on a tiny island as the current rushes past. This is the legacy of starting out with a big lie and hoping nobody would challenge it. Because everybody with EU experience knows it to be a lie it has been steadily revealed to be so. They would always have been better advised to focus on the technicalities of membership – what Scotland gets out of it, or doesn’t – in order to frighten the anxious. Instead they are exposed as…what’s the right word…scaremongers…who can’t be trusted on the big questions. In fact they had a very strong hand to play if they hadn’t been so contemptuous of Scottish opinion assuming that nobody will understand the EU…just say we’ll get expelled.
I would think the contribution Scotland has to make as an independent country would go up and there is no doubt at all in my mind that a commitment will have to be made to remove Scotland’s share of the UK rebate, a stone in the shoe for every other member. I don’t think it’s the amount Brussels is concerned with so much as the principle therefore I believe they will seek a phase-out over the seven year budget period so as not to hurt Scotland too much. Once the principle is conceded they will turn their guns on rUK and use Scotland against London.
As Professor Gallagher, the Union’s own adviser says, it’s unlikely there will be a move on either the Euro or Schengen. They cannot oblige a country to join the currency, Scotland wont have its own currency to put in anyway and it does no good to the EU to unbalance a member’s economy by forcing it to adopt the Euro, even if they had the powers which they don’t. Schengen is equally problematic as it involves not just Scotland but England as well and would mean reaching an agreement with London to “close” the Scottish Border. The real sticking point though is the third country in the Common Travel Area, the Irish Republic. Brussels won’t want to drag another Member State into complicated negotiations.
I still think the tuition fees question is fair game because it seems to me to run against not just EU law but founding principle and would in theory be open to legal challenge not only by states but by citizens objecting to a restriction to their rights. (Scotland can’t use the citizen’s argument on membership but reject it on tuition fees). I suspect the entry criteria from England could be adjusted to make access harder but that might be ruled anti European. It would certainly open up Scotland to the accusation of discrimination against England, something Daily Mail readers wrongly say exists today. (It was England that changed the funding rules, not us)
Talking of young people and students did you wonder like me what the hell is going on at Better Together? Yesterday’s pitch was to young voters, mainly first-timers, the digital generation with their jeans waistband below their buttocks, a communication watch on their wrist and ipod armband. And who did BT put up to “communicate” with them? Grandad…bloody Clive Dunn from Dad’s Army!! He even has the same metal-rimmed glasses.
When Alistair began speaking I heard the words come out…I’ve been sitting here all day, thinking…Now my day’s are gone…Memories linger on…Grandad, grandad, you’re lovely…
Have they no one under the age of 60 who still clings to the faded memory of Brave Britain fighting the Hun? Even a woman perhaps who looks like she was born before Bill and Ben, the Flower Pot Men…No teenager is going to listen to a silver-haired suit droning about how gloomy and dangerous everything is. Remember Alistair was voted Most Boring Politician in Britain – twice. And what was the backdrop…something about Opportunity and Security. That’s what the kind of corporate bullshit they use to advertise NATO, a first strike nuclear Armageddon machine, not for appealing to flaky adolescents. Buck up, McDougall!
Irony Alert. Are those insufferable Tory ministers who told Scots they wouldn’t be able to defend their own country the same ones accused of not pulling their weight in the American alliance? Robert Gates was confirming what MPs have been saying, that the UK is cutting too far to be credible. We haven’t even got an aircraft carrier.
The first of the new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, won’t enter service until 2016, with helicopters, not jets – not very scary. The second new carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, will arrive in 2019 and use probably French jets. At that point the first one will be mothballed and could be sold to another country to recoup some of the building cost. The UK is not now regarded states-side as a full operational defence force worthy of being a US ally. They are also not meeting all of their NATO obligations, I’m told, and we have no maritime air surveillance. Safe in their hands? I’m taking bets on the Army being so depleted that they get cuffed by the Bannockburn re-enactment mob during Armed Forces Day in Stirling.