Category Archives: EU

Why I’ll be voting Yes on Thursday

Although I’ve written hundreds of blog posts over the past couple of years, I’ve never described my personal journey to Yes. With just a few days to go before the referendum, here it is.

Getting to know Scotland

When I moved to Scotland from Denmark in 2002, I hadn’t thought much about Scottish independence, but I was broadly in favour of it. It would be hard not to when you come from a successful independent country the same size as Scotland.

Yes Scotland's first annual Independence rally
Yes Scotland’s first annual Independence rally, a photo by PhylB on Flickr.
However, at first I wasn’t really aware of the differences between Scotland and the other UK nations. I think I thought the differences were mainly cultural and linguistic, but I gradually started to notice the differences were much more fundamental than that, that Scotland really isn’t just another region of Britain (something which most English people never seem to have realised).

Indeed, surprisingly to foreigners, most Scots seem to consider Scotland to be a country within a political union called the UK. Sometimes believed to be too wee, too poor and too stupid to be independent, perhaps, but a country nonetheless. This is very different from how the UK is seen abroad. In most languages, ‘Britain’, ‘the UK’ and ‘England’ are used with exactly the same meaning. For instance, I have often received letters from Denmark addressed to ‘…, Glasgow, Scotland, England’.

The reason that it took me a long time to work out that Scotland wasn’t just a region wasn’t helped by the media. At first I watched BBC News, Channel 4 News and all that, and it took me some time to realise that half the news stories they were reporting weren’t relevant to Scotland. (Thank goodness I picked The Scotsman as my daily newspaper — I could just as easily have gone for The Independent!) The lack of devolution of the media is bizarre — it should have been a very easy thing to devolve.

However, once you start to realise that Scotland is indeed a country, a lot of things fall into place. You also start noticing how the native culture of Scotland is considered inferior by many people. For instance, although I had learnt some Gaelic before moving to Scotland, I only really started learning Scots after I moved here. It was very difficult, however, because most people will look at you like you’ve got three heads when you speak Scots with a foreign accent. It’s such a strange situation — a language that is spoken by almost half of the population but that people treat as an embarrassing dialect. The language of Dunbar and Burns, for crying out loud! It should be celebrated and be an obligatory subject in all schools as far as I’m concerned!

A political journey

During my first few years in Scotland, very little seemed to happen on the independence front. The SNP wasn’t getting close to power, and I started to think there would never be a majority in favour of independence in the Scottish Parliament (those were the days before Salmond returned to Holyrood), and so I gradually started thinking that perhaps a more realistic solution would be a reformed UK — a written constitution, proportional representation in Westminster, proper federalism, an elected House of Lords. I even joined the Liberal Democrats, thinking they had the determination to reform the broken union.

However, I rapidly grew disillusioned with the LibDems. I think it started when they refused even to sit down with the SNP in 2007 to explore whether a coalition could be formed. It started dawning on me that their commitment to federalism was just skin-deep, and that their real instincts were pro-Union and pro-Empire.

When the LibDems entered government with the Tories, I was initially hopeful that they would manage to get some meaningful reforms out of it. However, they repeatedly got outsmarted by the Conservatives. The introduction of tuition fees was of course a huge betrayal, but from a Scottish perspective it was even worse that they failed to introduce the AV system and to reform the House of Lords. Clearly the voting system referendum should have been about proportional representation (and not AV) if the Tories were going to be campaigning against it — AV should only have been accepted if the Tories committed themselves to campaigning in its favour.

More importantly, if the UK political system couldn’t even implement such a minor reform, what hope was there of ever enacting the far bolder reforms that I considered necessary?

These political events (on top of the Iraq war and the numerous other scandals that New Labour presided over) convinced me that the UK was a failed state that couldn’t be reformed. Many political parties seem quite idealistic when they’re far from power, but as soon as they get involved with the civil servants, they become part of the establishment machine and become carbon clones of the previous government.

In the meantime, the SNP had demonstrated that they could do things differently at Holyrood, and as a result they gained an absolute majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament, which then made an independence referendum an inevitability. I finally realised that I was a member of the wrong party, and I joined the SNP.

A different journey

At the same time I had been pursuing a career at a large publishing house in Bishopbriggs. Every other year, a redundancy round would move more of the best-paid jobs down to London, and I realised that you can only progress so far in your career in Scotland — at some point, you need to spend some years — or even the rest of your career — in London.

This might seem obvious to Scots, but to a Dane like me it was hugely shocking. Unless you want to be CEO of a multinational company, Danes expect they can have fulfilling and rewarding careers without leaving Denmark. If people do move abroad for work reasons, there’s not a single destination that dominates — Brussels, London, Berlin, New York, Oslo and Zürich are all equally likely.

I also fell in love with one of my colleagues, and one thing led to another. With five children in the house, I now see the educational aspect of devolution, too. Because they’re at Scottish schools, you can’t easily move to England for a couple of years, and you worry whether they can have a good career here. You also notice that the school holidays here aren’t in sync with the BBC’s school holiday programming and with the back-to-school products in supermarkets. The separate school system is making it hard to move to England and back, but you need to do that for your career. In this regard, the current system gives us the worst of both worlds.

Reforming the UK

If it was likely that the UK would be fundamentally reformed soon, my natural instinct would be to give it a chance. However, given that very few meaningful reforms have happened after more than a decade of Labour governments followed by a coalition government that includes the Liberal Democrats, I cannot see where the willingness to reform the UK will come from.

The main political parties in Westminster don’t seriously want to overhaul the system (because it’s working exceptionally well for the Westminster and City of London elites), and there’s not even a party that can carry the beacon of hope (in the way the LibDems did before 2010). The only untested party that has a chance of gaining power within the next decade is UKIP, and that will most certainly be a change for the worse!

If we have a choice between being part of a failed state or a new, potentially very successful one, the choice is easy.

Some people have suggested that the main diving line between people voting Yes and No is whether they feel Scottish or British. This national identity question is not what makes me a Yes. I don’t feel British in the slightest — I would probably describe myself as a Danish-Swabian-Scottish European, but I’m not against unions per se.

If somebody suggested creating a single country out Denmark, Norway and Sweden, I would look carefully at the proposal. If the new Scandinavian Union could achieve things that the existing countries couldn’t do themselves, and if all three countries were going to get a fair share of political power, I might be in favour. If, on the other hand, the Union simply meant putting Stockholm in charge of Denmark and Norway too, making Swedish the official language in all three countries, and the main benefit of the Union was to give the Swedish generals a bigger army to wage wars with, I would most definitely be against it.

The same applies to the UK. I haven’t found any area where we’re better together inside the UK. Externally, the UK might be stronger than its constituent parts when the country tries to punch above its weight in the UN and on the world stage generally, but unfortunately the result is not anything that furthers peace, democracy and the rule of law elsewhere on the planet, and what’s the point then?

Scotland can lead the way

Then what? Nordic Horizons!
It’s also very clear that Scotland and the majority of the rUK have very different visions for the future. An independent Scotland would want to retain and improve the welfare state (the Common Weal), whereas the rUK (led by London) is on its way to becoming a terribly unequal global city state. I believe Scotland could even inspire the other Nordic countries, where a certain degree of welfare state apathy has set in, but where Scotland’s experiences with living under Thatcher and Cameron will galvanise the resolve to do better.

What I want

I want to live in a rich, egalitarian country. Where my children can have a decent career without moving away. Where a welfare state provides healthcare and education for everybody. Where people get a hand when they’re down instead of being kicked further down. Where important rights are guaranteed by a constitution. Where immigrants are welcomed because most families consist of immigrants and emigrants. Where people are focusing on building the best small country in the world, not feeling disempowered and disenfranchised. Where nobility has been abolished, and ideally where the monarchy has been voted out too. A country that is growing at a normal speed, rather than seeing all other countries overtake it. A country that is a happy EU member state, not suffering from the Little Englander syndrome. A politically normal country, where people discuss the economy and foreign policy, not independence all the time.

The choice is simple. It has to be Yes.

(I haven’t mentioned the currency of Scotland, the transition costs or anything like this, because those aren’t reasons to vote Yes or No to independence — they’re purely practical problems to be resolved.)

EU citizens in Scotland must vote Yes to independence

UKIP election propaganda
UKIP election propaganda by mia!, on Flickr.
Twelve and a half years ago, I was still living in Denmark when I got an attractive job offer from a company in Bishopbriggs, and the EU made it easy to accept the job — I didn’t need to apply for anything in advance, and after I started my job, I could simply get a national insurance number and other necessities. By far the hardest bit was getting a bank account, and it took me two years to get a credit card, but the public-sector paperwork was minimal and straightforward.

As EU citizens in Scotland, we are treated as normal members of society. We cannot vote in Westminster elections and UK-wide referendums, but otherwise there’s not really anything we cannot do. We can even vote in the independence referendum, which surely is the ultimate sign that Scotland accepts us as New Scots.

Compared with Denmark, which is a very homogenous country without a strong tradition of emigration, Scotland has always been a multilingual, multicultural and multireligious melting pot, and emigration and immigration are simply facts of life here. The result is a very tolerant society that is welcoming to people who want to make Scotland their home.

In this regard, Scotland seems very different from large parts of England (I don’t know Wales and Northern Ireland well enough to comment on them). Of course there are many wonderful tolerant people there, too, but UKIP is clearly very attractive to many voters there, and that scares me witless. UKIP reminds me in many ways of the Danish party called Dansk Folkeparti, not least because both parties are very successful in planting xenophobic seeds in the minds of their political opponents so that the entire country shifts decisively towards unpleasantness.

However, there is one big difference between Dansk Folkeparti and UKIP: the former is strongly anti-Muslim, while the latter hates the EU more than anything, and they clearly aren’t friends of EU migrants.

This means that the UK is likely to get tougher and tougher on us. Even if the country remains in the EU, UKIP’s influence is likely to make it harder and harder for us to access the NHS, get unemployment benefit if we lose our jobs, or be reunified with family members.

Of course, if the UK actually votes to leave the EU (and we won’t have a vote in that referendum, of course), all hell will break loose. The consequences don’t even bear thinking about.

Because of this, voting Yes is a no-brainer for EU citizens in Scotland. Even if an independent Scotland was forced to leave the EU (and most experts agree that’s extremely unlikely, e.g., Yves Gounin, John Palmer and others), Scotland’s tolerance and acceptance of us means a solution would be found to allow us to continue to live here.

It’s even likely we’ll continue to be allowed to vote for the Scottish Parliament after independence. At least the draft constitution white paper included this: “[As] in the referendum, the current Scottish Parliament franchise will continue except that it will be extended to include 16 and 17 year olds.”

I understand if some EU citizens in Scotland occasionally feel worried about an independent Scotland’s continued EU membership, but that’s really not the danger to our future. Scots don’t want to get rid of us, and we’ll be allowed to remain here as New Scots, even if Scotland ends up an EFTA member like Norway.

The real danger to us is living in a country led by a Westminster bubble where everybody is dancing to UKIP’s tune. We must vote Yes to protect our future.

A fax democracy?

Abandoned Fax Machine
Abandoned Fax Machine by Abhisek Sarda, on Flickr.
There was a rather odd article by professor Vernon Bogdanor, David Cameron’s former politics tutor at Oxford University, in The Guardian recently.

In the first half, he seems to argue that Scotland will have a lot of influence — although he makes it sound like it would be a bad thing because we might not always want to copy Westminster:

[T]he EU, despite its rhetoric, has not succeeded in establishing a common foreign or security policy. Indeed, in most of the foreign policy crises of the last 25 years – the first Gulf war, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Iraq war – the EU has been divided.

An independent Scotland, therefore, could decide its own foreign and defence policy. The SNP proposes that Scotland should become a non-nuclear state. An independent Scotland could, if it so wished, leave Nato. And we only have to look across the Irish Sea to appreciate that Ireland has considerable scope for independent policies. Whereas in 1914 Ireland, as part of the UK, was a combatant in the first world war, an independent Ireland in 1939 chose neutrality in the second. It makes a great deal of difference, therefore, which country one belongs to.

However, he then seems to change his mind and starts arguing that Scotland will become a fax democracy in thrall to Westminster:

Scotland would no longer send MPs to Westminster. Scotland would be represented in London not by MPs and by a member of the cabinet, the Scotland secretary, but by a high commissioner. So Scotland would have no political leverage over decisions made at Westminster.


An independent Scotland would have no right to a shared currency or shared social union. Its only right would be to propose them. It would then be up to the rest of the UK, a country in which Scotland would no longer be represented and would have no electoral or political leverage, to decide. The terms of independence could not depend on Scotland alone.

A yes vote would be a vote to disclaim the union. It would not then be possible for Scotland unilaterally to choose which aspects of that union it was able to retain. The nation would have to negotiate for what it now enjoys as a right.

The position of an independent Scotland negotiating with the rest of the UK would resemble that of Norway negotiating with the rest of the EU. Norway is in the position of a lobbyist – sometimes called a “fax democracy”, because the proposals of the council of ministers are faxed to Norway for its comments. But whatever these comments are, it is rare for the council to alter its proposals.

An independent Scotland would be a mere lobbyist in Westminster – and would also be in danger of becoming a fax democracy.

This is really odd. Professor Bogdanor seems to confuse the independence negotiations with life as an independent country, and it’s strange how he can even begin to see Scotland’s relationship with the rUK as similar to Norway’s non-membership of the EU.

Of course the independence negotiations will be conducted between Scotland and the rUK, not between Scotland and the UK (in other words, Scotland wouldn’t be represented on both sides of the table). However, we’re talking about a negotiation here (“a discussion set up or intended to produce a settlement or agreement” according to the CED), so obviously it won’t be a case of the rUK deciding the terms and conditions for independence unilaterally after receiving a fax from Scotland.

Once Scotland has become an independent country, it’s true Scotland will be represented by a high commissioner in London (Commonwealth countries tend to call their emissaries high commissioners rather than ambassadors). However, Westminster laws won’t apply north of the border any more, so Scotland won’t have any reason to fax comments down to Westminster. Of course some laws will have implications for Scotland, but that won’t be unique to rUK laws — no country exists in complete isolation — some Norwegian or Irish laws will also be of interest to Holyrood. This is one of the reasons why countries have embassies abroad.

The reason Norway is occasionally called a fax democracy is because Norway is part of the EU’s Single Market, but without being part of the EU. This means that when the EU makes decisions in this area (through the normal EU institutions — the Commission, the Council and the Parliament), Norway is not represented at all. All Norway can do is to send a fax begging the EU to take its views into account, but if the EU ignores the requests, Norway will still have to implement the decision. This would be almost like withdrawing the Scottish MPs from Westminster while remaining part of the UK.

It seems to me that professor Bogdanor hasn’t really understood that Scotland will be a completely normal independent country after independence. We won’t depend on Westminster any more. There won’t be any need to send them any faxes.

The election of Juncker means we must vote Yes

Eu  Council: President Van Rompuy welcoming the British PM David Cameron
Eu Council: President Van Rompuy welcoming the British PM David Cameron by President of the European Council, on Flickr.
It’s now certain that Jean-Claude Juncker will become President of the European Commission. The European Council (the heads of government of the 28 EU states) voted 26–2 in favour of Juncker — only the UK and Hungary voted against — and getting approved by the European Parliament is a formality in this case.

I’m not at all impressed by the way David Cameron has conducted his campaign against Juncker, and it bodes ill for the UK’s future in the EU.

From a federalist continental European perspective, Juncker looked like a popular and democratic choice. Everybody has been complaining about the lack of democratic legitimacy for ages, and an obvious improvement was made possible by the fact that the Lisbon Treaty requires the election of the Commission President to “take account of the elections to the European Parliament”. Each of the European political parties (political parties in European countries are affiliated to these) therefore put forward a candidate (a so-called “Spitzenkandidat”, using the German word) prior to the elections. Most voters in the UK might not have been aware of this, but a vote for Scottish Labour was also a vote for Martin Schulz to become Commission President. The result of the elections was that the European People’s Party (which didn’t field any candidates in this country) again became the largest party, and therefore it was natural that their Spitzenkandidat, Jean-Claude Juncker, should become President.

However, Westminster wants to roll back the EU, so they block all moves towards federalism (which in an EU context means making joint decisions democratically in the European Parliament and the European Council). It was therefore obvious that Westminster didn’t want Juncker — he’s a committed federalist, he was backed by the European Parliament, and he didn’t owe Britain any favours. They wanted to veto him and instead elect a useless compromise candidate that would ensure the EU didn’t achieve much.

This has often been Westminster’s way. Perhaps the most blatant example was seen 20 years ago, when John Major vetoed the appointment of Jean-Luc Dehaene, after which Jacques Santer was appointed in his stead. Since then, national vetoes have been removed from lots of places in the EU, and Cameron didn’t have the power to veto Juncker, which is perhaps why this tried and tested method of sabotaging the EU didn’t work this time.

In retrospect, Cameron should have tried to prevent Juncker from becoming the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat, but that was impossible because of his stupid decision to pull the Tories out of the EPP and set up its own Eurosceptic political group (the ECR), which now includes Danish and Finnish xenophobic parties in a failed attempt to prevent UKIP from getting enough members to create its own group in the parliament.

However, this leaves Cameron and Westminster in a very bad position. They have antagonised the new President of the Commission by making their opposition to him very public, and it has also become clear that the other EU countries aren’t bending over backwards in the hope that it will entice the British population to vote to remain in the EU in the in/out referendum.

It seems increasingly likely that Cameron won’t be able to negotiate any significant exemptions, and that rather than rolling back European integration, the threat of a British exit will actually encourage the federalists, which again will make it increasingly hard to get the mainly Eurosceptic English electorate to vote to remain in the EU.

Today’s events have made it much more likely that the country led by Westminster will leave the EU in a couple of years’ time. The question that remains is whether Scotland remains in the EU together with Ireland, Denmark and Sweden.

The move towards European federalism is actually a good thing for Scotland (because the alternative is that the big countries call the shots), and Juncker is a rather good candidate that an independent Scotland most likely would have supported.

However, we can only chose to remain in the EU if we’re independent. If we vote No to independence and the UK votes to leave the EU, the only thing keeping the country afloat will be the global financial services in London. It would be a disaster for Scotland, probably even worse than the Thatcher years.

The election of Juncker makes a Yes vote even more imperative. It doesn’t serve Scotland well to be represented by these numpties in Westminster who don’t even understand how the EU works, who think only in terms of vetoes and rebates.

We must be independent!

Addendum (29/6): Alyn Smith MEP and Iain Macwhirter make some interesting observations about this in today’s Sunday Herald. First the MEP:

Cameron does not know how Europe works, he does not know the rules, he has ignored and belittled most of the other players and, worse, he gives every impression of not caring less. “He’s f***ed it up, he’s totally f***ed it it up.” Excuse the language, but those are not my words, but those of Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski — an urbane, smart, arch Anglophile Atlanticist, and an Oxford graduate and Bullingdon Club member to boot — in secret recordings, in a scandal running large in Poland.

That’s the way David Cameron’s closest allies talk about him when they think the recorders are off. In the cafés and bars of Brussels in recent weeks I’ve heard worse language than that used to describe the Prime Minister.

And now Iain Macwhirther:

I’ve been spending quite a lot of time in England recently and I can confirm that this debate about federalism barely figures on the metropolitan radar. What does figure is a very widespread hostility to the European Union of a kind we very rarely hear in Scotland. This isn’t got up by the press. Many ordinary English voters seriously believe that Europe is bossing them around, taking their cash, flooding them with immigrants and generally taking away their liberties. The strength of feeling is quite startling to those of us who have seen European integration as a broadly positive movement – an expression of internationalism.

The EU budget rebate

European Council backstage March 2013
European Council backstage March 2013 by European Council, on Flickr.
The No campaigners keep repeating their scaremongering stories about the EU ad nauseam:

A spokesman for Better Together said: “As part of the UK we get special deals in the EU.

“What Alex Salmond needs to be honest about is what would happen to our opt-outs on the Euro and the no borders immigration scheme, as well as what would happen to our rebate.”

I don’t know why they even bother mentioning the Euro any more. As discussed previously on this blog and in many other places, Scotland does not currently fulfil the criteria for joining the European currency, and it seems unlikely that Scotland would be able to introduce the Euro before 2023, even if it became a political priority. Also, Sweden has demonstrated how any EU country can stay out of the Euro without having a formal opt-out by refusing to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM-II).

The no borders immigration scheme is a novel way to refer to Schengen. Schengen is actually a wonderful idea, which allows people to travel freely across Europe without ever needing to produce a passport. However, the UK and the Republic of Ireland decided not to join this and to continue with their own Common Travel Area (CTA) instead. The whole idea of the CTA would fall apart if Scotland joined Schengen instead, so it would probably lead to all of the British Isles joining Schengen shortly afterwards if this happened. I would expect the rUK to put up a big fight to keep Scotland in the CTA for this reason. There’s a good discussion of this on Wings over Scotland.

The last point made by Better Together was the UK rebate. There are actually huge problems with the way it works:

The rebate distorts UK funding negotiations with the EU. Normally, countries and independent agencies within each country bid to receive central EU funds. The UK government is aware that two-thirds of any EU funding will in effect be deducted from the rebate and come out of UK government funds. Thus the UK has only a one-third incentive to apply for EU funds. Other countries, whose contributions into the budget are not affected by funds they receive back, have no incentive to moderate their requests for funds.

I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this was the reason for Westminster’s recent decision to block Scotland’s access to EU funding for tackling youth unemployment:

Westminster’s decision to stand in the way of Scotland accessing EU funding to help tackle youth unemployment has been branded one of the clearest examples of Westminster’s anti-Europe agenda “actively damaging” the job prospects of people in Scotland.

The European Youth Guarantee provides young people under 25 an apprenticeship, training place, job or the chance to continue in education within four months of leaving education or becoming unemployed. However, the UK Government does not support the scheme, meaning that young people lose out on the EU support available to them.

In Scotland the Opportunities for All scheme already guarantees an offer of work, training or education for young people in a similar way to the EU’s Youth Guarantee – but the Westminster Government’s stance means that Scotland is unable to benefit from this EU funding.

Of course, an independent Scotland might try to apply for as much EU funding as possible, rather than trying to obtain a rebate like the UK’s. To take just one example, as pointed out by Business for Scotland, Scotland currently receives the lowest agricultural support in the entire EU. If we play our cards well, we might well manage to receive more money in this way than the rebate would have given us.

However, if Scotland doesn’t manage to receive significantly more funding after independence, it’s worth pointing out that Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Germany are now also receiving various rebates, and it’s therefore not a mechanism unique to the UK any more:

Future correction mechanisms (ORD 2014-2020) subject to approval:

The UK rebate will continue to apply; Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden will benefit from gross reductions in their annual GNI contribution of €130 million, €695 million and €185 million respectively. Austria will benefit from gross reduction in its annual GNI contribution of €30 million in 2014, €20 million in 2015 and €10 million in 2016; reduced VAT call rates for Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden will be fixed at 0.15 %.

Of course, given that Scotland after independence will be a richer country than the rUK, it’s completely fair if we have to pay a wee bit more in EU membership fees. At the same time we should be able to get substantial amounts of benefits back from the EU, much more than we currently get, and if we still need some sort of rebate, I’d expect other small rich EU countries like Denmark and Sweden to be our allies in the budget negotiations.

Focusing solely on the UK’s rebate is not the right approach, and it reveals a lack of understanding of how the EU works. Of course Scotland will continue to do well out of our EU membership, and probably significantly more so after independence.

Today’s European Parliament election from an indyref perspective

Backside of the European Parliament
Backside of the European Parliament by Protesilaos Stavrou, on Flickr.

We aren’t voting for or against independence in the European Parliament elections today. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t relevant from an indyref perspective.

First of all, and most obviously, the media will look at the strength of the Yes parties and try to conclude that this says something about the strength of the Yes campaign. In other words, if the SNP and the Green party together win three (or more) of the six seats available, everything is fine. On the other hand, if they only get two, it will be seen as a blow to the Yes campaign.

Secondly, UKIP must not win a seat here. They have been trying extremely hard to present themselves as a UK-wide party, but they have never saved a deposit in Scotland, and it’s important for the distinctiveness of Scottish politics that the status quo in this area is maintained, apart from the obvious fact that UKIP is an abhorrent party.

Thirdly, the Scottish MEPs will sit in the European political party groups in the European Parliament. For instance, the SNP and the Green Party will both form part of Greens/EFA, Labour will sit in S&D, the Tories in ECR (not in the EPP!), and the LibDems (if they get in) in ALDE. The MEPs normally vote the same within each group, so it’s really important to look into this rather than simply assuming the MEPs will be toeing the national party line. The European political parties are not equally keen on Scottish independence, as became clear when the Spitzenkandidats were questioned about this on TV:

It’s clear that the Greens/EFA group is the only one that strongly supports Scottish independence.

Fourthly, it’s likely that when the Scottish number of MEPs is increased from 6 to 13 after independence, the additional parliamentarians will be found using the results from this election, rather than holding a by-election. This makes it even more important to elect candidates who will do their utmost to represent an independent Scotland well on the European stage.

To summarise, the best way to support a Yes vote and to further Scottish independence in the European Parliament is to vote for either the SNP or the Green Party. These two parties sit in the same political group in Brussels and Strasbourg, so in practice the difference between the two is minor in this context. It’s probably more important to weigh up whether it’s more likely that the SNP will win three seats or that the Greens will win one. This has been explored with great clarity by Lallands Peat Worrier.

Misleading voters about the European Parliament

A Q&A from Labour's European Parliament election leaflet.
A bit of misinformation from Labour’s European Parliament election leaflet.
One of the reasons why so many people are against the EU and why UKIP are finding it so easy to campaign for leaving it altogether is that most don’t know very much at all about how it functions.

Just look at this snippet from a Labour leaflet we received the other day, which clearly is Better Together propaganda disguised as a European Parliament election leaflet:

Q. How does Labour make sure Scotland’s voice is heard?

A. Smaller countries have much less clout but because we are part of the UK, we have a voting block of 73 MEPs and, along with 4 other countries out of 28, we make up half of all MEPs.

The numbers aren’t wrong, but what is crucially missing here is that MEPs very rarely vote along national lines. According to this report (PDF), members of each European political party group vote together around 90% of the time [p. 10]: It adds: “The only policy area that bucks this trend is agriculture: here, the European political groups are less cohesive than on other policy issues and some national delegations (particularly the French and the Scandinavians) vote along national lines”.

In other words, the fact that there are 73 UK MEPs but only 13 Danish ones is almost irrelevant because they only rarely (if ever) vote as a block; Labour should instead be talking about how their 13 MEPs (two of which are representing Scotland) form part of the S&D’s parliamentary group consisting of 190 members from most EU countries.

Much more importantly, Scotland currently only has 6 MEPs, but as an independent country we would have 13 (the same as Denmark). This means that the S&D group would most likely contain four or five Scottish members instead of just two, dramatically increasing Scotland’s influence there. And of course the Scottish members would be free to vote together with the rUK ones whenever that would be desirable, so independence would only increase our influence in the European Parliament.