How does an independent Scotland fit into the EU?
With clear divisions over David Cameron’s performance at last week’s Euro summit Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, MARGARET CURRAN MP, asks what Alex Salmond really wants for an independent Scotland in Europe.
Sometimes it takes a crisis to expose the weak arguments used by politicians who try to hide their true colours. So it is with Alex Salmond and the Eurozone crisis.
After weeks of silence, his letter to the Prime Minister yesterday, shows that he has one eye on campaigning for separation and one eye on governing Scotland. I agree the Prime Minister should have consulted widely before wielding the veto – he didn’t even speak to the Deputy Prime Minister – and the UK Government should meet with the leaders of the UK’s devolved institutions now.
However, it’s not enough for the First Minister to demand answers on the big questions in Europe when he’s refused to answer so many himself.
For months, Scots have asked Alex Salmond to come clean on what ‘Independence in Europe’ actually means, but they have been met with a wall of silence from the SNP.
That is simply not good enough.
Across Scotland, families are worried about their future, their jobs, and the economy. They deserve serious answers to the most serious of questions.
Top of the list is what currency a separate Scotland would use, and whether Scots are prepared to accept the Euro? Independent evidence has made it clear that an independent Scotland will have to accept the Euro if it decides to join the EU. Even Alex Salmond’s own chief economic adviser believes that. However, the ongoing volatility of the Euro spells disaster for Scottish business.
Of course Alex Salmond knows his desire to join the Euro is out of kilter with most Scots, so he suggests without evidence or prior negotiation that a separate Scotland might just keep using the pound. Alex Salmond needs to come clean and tell the people of Scotland why he wants to be in a “currency union” within the UK, but wants to give up those parts of the union that would leave us with no influence over monetary policy or borrowing powers. Why on earth would using a currency over which we had no control be good for Scottish families and businesses?
Finally, with up to 26 other EU states now adopting new fiscal rules to manage budget deficits and public debt, would a separate Scotland outside the UK also adopt these measures? Would Salmond be willing to submit Scotland’s budget to European scrutiny and would he be willing to raise the necessary taxes to meet fiscal rules designed for Greece and Italy, rather than for Scotland? Alex Salmond needs to tell us clearly where he stands on that point.
While the First Minister dithers over how to respond to these questions, we know his own lawyers have already drafted answers, which he is keeping secret. I have repeatedly called for this advice to be published, and with growing uncertainty about the UK’s relationship with Europe, the First Minister needs to put the national interest ahead of his own self-interest and publish his legal advice on our membership of the EU.
The longer he dodges these questions the more suspect the First Minister’s position becomes.
Margaret Curran MP is Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland representing Glasgow East at Westminster.