SNP confusion over fishing policy

The roots of the SNP lie in the fishing communities of the North East of Scotland. The recent desire for Scottish independence, in other words, was borne out of a desire to regain national control over fisheries, which by then were under control of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

Now, of course, the SNP seems hell-bent on securing a further referendum on independence in order to rejoin the EU after Brexit. That, however, would mean rejoining the Common Fisheries Policy – and on even more disadvantageous terms than the present arrangements.

So what are we to make of those SNP MPs who have signed a pledge that would protect fishermen by, in effect, keeping Scotland out of the EU?

Signatories include Mike Weir, the party’s chief whip, and Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford. The pledge could not be more specific:- “We must avoid any policy, practice, regulation or treaty which could return us to the Common Fisheries Policy and the enforced giveaway of almost two-thirds of our fish stocks.” If this doesn’t mean staying out of the EU after Brexit, what does it mean?

True, the Conservatives, under Michael Howard, considered repatriating UK fisheries policy without leaving the EU, using the so-called “notwithstanding” clause which allowed the Westminster Parliament to enact legislation “any provisions of the European Communities Act notwithstanding” – in other words, to override the EU. Would Scotland, however, newly back into the EU fold, wish to embark on such a confrontational act, even assuming the Scottish Parliament actually possessed similar powers?

While Dr Whiteford insisted that the party’s policy “has always been consistent” in its opposition to CFP, the charges of hypocrisy levelled by Murdo Fraser, a Scottish Conservative MEP and fellow-signatory, are not without foundation. Ultimately, the SNP has a choice. Does it want to seize the opportunities provided by Brexit to rebuild the Scottish fishing industry or does it want to complete the work begun by Edward Heath in wrecking Scotland’s coastal communities completely by dragging the country back into the EU and thus the Common Fisheries Policy it was formed to oppose? It cannot do both.

Photo by stusmith_uk

The uniqueness of the breadth of anti-EU sentiment in the UK

Next Wednesday, Parliament will be dissolved in preparation for June’s General election. The final Prime Minister’s Question Time has already taken place and it provided an opportunity for retiring MPs to make their voice heard in the debating chamber for the last time.

Quite a number of MPs have already indicated that they will not be seeking re-election. Some, like Alan Johnson, who headed up the thankfully ineffective Labour in for Britain campaign last year, will be no great loss. His colleague Gisela Stuart is a different matter, however. One of the few solidly pro-leave Labour MPs, Mrs Stuart’s eyes were opened   when she was appointed as one of the UK Parliamentary Representatives to the European Convention, which was tasked with drawing up a new constitution for the European Union.

Another veteran pro-leave MP to be stepping down is Sir Gerald Howarth, the Member for Aldershot since 1997, with whom I shared a platform last May at a debate held in nearby Farnham.

These two individuals, from different parties but united in their opposition to our membership of the EU, epitomise the uniqueness of anti-EU sentiment in the UK and ultimately, why we were able to secure a sufficient majority to leave.

Historically, in most member states, anti-EU sentiment has been primarily a phenomenon of either neo-fascists or the political left. Jacques Delors’ “Social Europe” of the 1980s won round most Socialist parties to supporting the EU, including our own Labour Party. Sections of the Far Left remained irreconcilable and as Delors’ vision has faded with the EU gradually turning into a honeypot for lobbyists from multinational businesses, they have further reason for their opposition. In this country, even though left-of-centre anti-EU sentiment in the UK has never been as strong as it was in the 1970s and early 1980s, it never died out completely.

What marks out the UK as unique, however, is the strength of Thatcherite anti-EU sentiment. The centre-right Christian Democrat-type parties in the other member states are solid supporters of federalism. David Cameron’s pledge to pull the Conservative Party’s MEPs out of the European People’s Party grouping in the European Parliament, which includes Angela Merkel’s CDU and France’s “Les Republicains”, when seeking to become Conservative leader, was one of the reasons for his success. It was probably no great issue for the ideology-light Cameron, but many of his MPs were aghast at their colleagues in Brussels being bedfellows of unreconstructed federalists.

The Campaign for an Independent Britain has always sought to act as an umbrella group for anti-EU organisations on both the left and right of the political spectrum and by and large, we have found that the vast majority of pro-withdrawalists have been willing to work together, notwithstanding their differences over other issues.

Indeed, this held true during the referendum campaign itself. Some left-of-centre Brexit campaigners felt that Martin Durkin’s Brexit the Movie presented a vision of an independent UK which was too free market and Thatcherite for their taste and produced their own Lexit video to offer a more socialist picture of life after the EU. This did not preclude left- and right-leaning withdrawalists sharing of platforms, nor did differences in other matters obscure the considerable degree of overlap. Ultimately, the undemocratic nature of the EU and its progressive erosion of our national sovereignty is not an issue which is the exclusive concern of any one part of the political spectrum.

This is because the scale of revulsion over the EU’s intrusion into the political process in our nation is born out of something which transcends party politics – our long-standing tradition of freedom and our mature democracy. This is without parallel in most other EU member states. Only the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries can begin to compare with us in this area.

And thankfully, this deep-seated loathing of foreign interference in our affairs was sufficient to bind an otherwise disparate group of MPs and activists together and secure the magnificent result of 23rd June. To all those departing pro-leave MPs who are bowing out:- Ladies and Gentlemen, enjoy your retirement and thank you for your efforts. We owe you a great debt.

Britain needs fighting ‘Plan B’ for trade as EU turns screws on Brexit

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. The original first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

The European Union is hardening its terms on Brexit. There is a new hint of hostility in the language. The tone is peremptory.

Those of us who hoped that Germany would push quietly for an amicable settlement can no longer be so confident. We now learn from Handelsblatt that the German finance ministry insisted on some of the most unfriendly changes to the EU’s latest working documents.

Berlin stipulated that Britain must honour “all obligations” (Verpflichtungen) for divorce payments, a tougher wording than the earlier, gentler talk of legal and budgetary “duties” (Pflichten).

It demanded that Britain desist from tax dumping and financial deregulation that would “jeopardize the stability of the union”. This demand is almost insulting. British regulators have led efforts to recapitalize banks. It is the eurozone and Germany that have dragged their feet on tougher capital rules.

There is no longer any attempt at diplomatic tact. The document states that the European Commission will “determine” when the UK has made “sufficient progress” as it jumps through the hoops, the way it handles accession talks for supplicants hoping to join. It reads like an imperial curia discussing a colony.

The French too have stepped up their demands, insisting that financial services be excluded from the trade deal. The City of London must respect the “regulatory and supervisory standards regime” of the EU in any future arrangement, suggesting that Britain will have to accept the sway of the European Court.

Some argue that France will soften its line under a President Emmanuel Macron. His economic strategist is the anglophile Jean Pisani-Ferry, co-author of a Breugel paper proposing a ‘continental partnership’ between Britain and the EU that preserves very close ties.

Sadly, Mr Pisani-Ferry has made no headway with this idea. I have met Mr Macron enough times – or have seen him at EU venues behind closed doors – to detect a messianic fervour for the European project. He is a crusader by political religion, the EU’s latterday Bernard de Clairvaux.

But it is the hardening mood in Germany that is most ominous. The reason for the sudden change is unquestionably Theresa May’s snap election. While we think that the Prime Minister’s motive is – in part – to build a buffer against Brexit ultras in her own party, that is not the view in Berlin. Germans see her gambit as anti-EU sabre-rattling and a breach of good faith.

“The EU wants to counter Theresa May’s rhetoric and kill the idea that a bigger conservative majority will make any difference to their negotiating position,” said John Springfield from the Centre for European Reform.

The German press has likened Mrs May’s démarche to the defiant posturing of Alexis Tsipras in Greece. They almost take it as a given that her Brexit plan will fail and that she too will be forced to capitulate, grovelling for mercy. One wonders where the briefings are coming from in Berlin.

The parallel with Greece is on one level absurd. Syriza caved after the European Central Bank cut off liquidity and shut down the banking system. Britain is not in the euro or vulnerable to such coercion, and the strategic contours are entirely different.

Yet the Greek saga is instructive. The lesson is that you do not bluff with the EU power structure. If Theresa May still thinks that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, she had better have a credible Plan B, and she must be willing to activate it.

Falling back to the minimalist option of the World Trade Organisation and hoping to craft global trade deals smacks of defeat. It would leave Britain in limbo, pleading with the US, Japan, China, India, and other countries to embark on talks when they have larger matters at hand.

So it is time to think in revolutionary terms.  Parliament’s Exiting the EU Committee called earlier this month for a detailed study of what it would mean if the UK left the EU without a deal. Downing Street should answer this legitimate request, and the menu should include the nuclear option of unilateral free trade.

This is a heady Cobdenite manifesto, a turbo-charged version of the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. No developed country has ever attempted such a thing, though New Zealand comes closest, leaving aside the special cases of Hong Kong and Singapore.

All tariffs would be cut to zero. There would be no restrictions on imports besides obvious safeguards, such as policing child labour or environmental abuses, or for national security reasons.

It needs no reciprocation, working from the premise of Adam Smith that if any other country wishes to impose or maintain barriers that is their own folly. They suffer the welfare loss. The currency would adjust to the new equilibrium, keeping the current account close to balance over time.

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations laid out the argument that protectionists hurt themselves most

Adam Posen, head of the Peterson Institute in Washington, said Britain would face a rough time with no EU trade deal but at least such a plan has creative allure. “It is far more credible than other options,” he said.

The current dismal narrative on Brexit would be transformed overnight.  Britain would suddenly be seen by the rest of the world as pioneering nation at the forefront of globalism, reasserting Thatcherite audacity, rather than a crabby islanders in decline. “People’s jaws would drop,” says Professor Patrick Minford from Cardiff University.

Pure free trade cuts through the Gordian Knot, eliminating the need for an army of technocrat negotiators and for yet more of those supra-national tribunals that so proliferate, eviscerating democracies and sapping consent for globalism.

Prof Minford says the hide-bound political class has yet to give such clear blue sky proposals a serious airing. “It is so unfamiliar. It takes a mental somersault to break free of mercantilist thinking,” he said.

Economists for Brexit – now Economists for Free Trade – certainly got off on the wrong foot last year by suggesting that the UK would be positively richer under such a model. This invited a blizzard of criticism.

My own view has always been that there will be a negative shock from Brexit and withdrawal from the single market, with effects on GDP at best neutral by 2030 with the right policies.

Professor John Van Reenen, a trade expert at MIT and a vocal critic of the Minford plan, says retreat to the WTO would cost roughly 2.5pc of GDP compared to remaining in the EU, with losses rising over time to 8.5pc due to productivity effects.

Conservatives Must Exorcise the Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing

Press release from Fishing for Leave

Fishermen’s organisation Fishing for Leave have questioned the government’s electoral resolve on repatriating Britain’s fishing waters and resources that were so shamefully surrendered by Edward Heath as “expendable” in the rush to join the EEC.

They cite that the government’s continued failure to rescind the London Fisheries Convention 1964 is a tangible example that there is no commitment or resolve in government to take back national control of one of Britain’s greatest national resources.

Fishing for Leave spokesman Alan Hastings said “By failing to serve the 2 years notice it the London Convention requires at the same time as Article 50, EU vessels will still have unfettered access to fish in UK waters between 6 and 12 nautical miles after UK withdrawal from the EU”.

“By continuing to prevaricate on scrapping this Convention the government has squandered the opportunity to take back control of all our fishing waters as per international law and in doing so secure the strongest diplomatic hand of controlling all access”.

“Reclaiming our fishing waters and resources can give more sustainable management and would be worth £6.3 billion and which will rejuvenate coastal communities by creating tens of thousands of jobs”.

“A Conservative government must exorcise the abject betrayal of Britain’s fishing and coastal communities and correct the past injustices inflicted on them as they were sacrificed to the EU by politicians complicit in the EUs agenda”.

“A Conservative government must categorically commit to reclaiming all sovereignty and control over UK waters. To scrapping the London Convention, to not adopting the CFP with the Great Repeal Bill for political convenience and to commit to implementing an entirely new, uniform UK policy that will rejuvenate the industry across the whole UK and end the shameful rules that force fishermen to discard upto 50% of their catch”.

 “All it would take is for Mrs May, Conservative MPs and party to show political will and determination by giving a cast iron manifesto commitment on fishing which can be a beacon of success and one of the “acid tests” for the government on Brexit”.

MIKE HOOKEM

EU Fisheries Committee MEP Mike Hookem joined in the criticism of the governments inaction and commitment on Fishing saying “I am yet to be convinced that Theresa Mays government has any intention of repatriating UK fishing to our sovereignty”.

“Time and again in the EU parliament we see British MEPs voting down amendments that aim to repatriate sovereignty to this country.  The fact is the political establishment are so intertwined with the EU that they cannot see the wood from the trees and understand what is best for Britain”.

“Look at towns Like Grimsby, Lowestoft, Whitby, Fleetwood and any of the other traditional port that have had their livelihoods decimated and their communities destroyed through the political establishment sell out to the CFP”.

“We now have an opportunity to regenerate and reinvest in these fishing communities and make them the thriving hubs of industry once more. All it would take is the political will and determination to rebuild the ports and towns that have suffered at politicians hands in the past”

France gives the EU a breather

The nightmare scenario in Brussels would have been a le Pen/Mélenchon run off in the second and final round of the French Presidential election. Both candidates, for different reasons, were strongly EU-critical and the far left Jean-Luc Mélenchon put in a strong showing in the final days of campaigning.

Not strong enough, however, to beat Emmanuel Macron, the most pro-EU candidate of the four front runners. He will go forward to the second round where he is widely expected to win comfortably against Marine le Pen, although probably not by anything like the same margin as the 82%-18% victory of Jacques Chirac over her father Jean-Marie le Pen in  2002

One reason why a Macron victory is unlikely to be that decisive is that he has come out openly in support not only of the EU but of multiculturalism and diversity. France today contains a substantial number of voters who are distinctly unenthusiastic about both. Indeed, a total of 46% of all votes were cast for either le Pen, Mélenchon or “Frexit” candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan. Abstention is likely to be high in the second round and some supporters of the defeated candidates may well switch to Marine le Pen. Even so, it would be a brave man who would bet any money on her becoming president this time round.

So huge sighs of relief are the order of the day in Brussels and Berlin. What about in London? A run-off between two EU-critical candidates with one of them eventually becoming president would have perhaps given us a Brexit-friendly voice in the Elysée Palace but at the expense of the remaining EU-26 wanting to take a tougher line on Brexit to minimise the risk of contagion. A probable Macron victory relieves the fear of any other country voting to leave. As with the failure of Geert Wilders’ PVV Party to top the polls in the Netherlands’ election earlier this year, Brexit now looks more and more like a one-off as far as the EU is concerned.

But those disaffected 46% will be heading back to the polls in June to vote in elections of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament. Even if France ends up with a pro-EU president, that president is likely to deal with a considerable number of députés who do not share his enthusiasm. As in other European countries, support for the mainstream socialist party is in freefall and the centre-right Les Républicains are unlikely to perform well. This doesn’t mean that the EU’s day of reckoning has only been postponed by a further two months. Its final collapse could be several years away, but as one Old Testament prophet put it, “The vision is yet for an appointed time… thought it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come.

Scotland, Separation and the Brexit Question

The SNP has abandoned ‘True Independence’ and Sturgeon is forcing Scotland to choose between a more powerful Scotland inside a Federal UK, or a less powerful one inside the EU and most likely the Eurozone.

I remember the SNP’s 2015 manifesto commitment very clearly: the more seats they won in Westminster, the more powers they would get back for Scotland. It was not their most original manifesto commitment, but it was consistent with the main theme of Scottish politics for the past few decades: that devolution should bring power closer to the people of Scotland.

It is not an idea which most of us who support devolution tend to argue with, nor was it the majority of Scottish voters who, on 7 May 2015, returned 56 SNP candidates out of a possible 59 to the House of Commons.

It puzzles me therefore, in this Brexit age, why Nicola Sturgeon was so counterintuitively against the United Kingdom leaving the European Union in the referendum last year, and why she is fighting so hard for Scotland to secure a bespoke deal on membership of the EU’s Single Market.

Of course, the First Minister is trying to manufacture a pretext for a second referendum in Scotland. Forget that for a moment: Nicola Sturgeon is playing political games. She has a ‘Party management issue’ following the influx of die-hard nationalists who swelled the SNP’s membership figures after their referendum defeat in 2014. Also, forget (but only for a minute) that since occupying Bute House the SNP has sought to find differences with England wherever there aren’t any; it’s all part of the drive towards so called ‘independence’.

I always imagined that the First Minister after a Leave victory would have been “champing at the bit” to empower her own office and Scotland. After all, she has a manifesto commitment to keep… Alas, no.

Constitutional observers will have noticed in recent years how the SNP has instead empowered the Scottish Government by centralising almost everything – from policing to planning for wind turbine projects – away from local government and into the hands of Edinburgh. Their attack on localism is an idiosyncrasy I fail to understand given their commitment to bring power “closer to The People”. But equally difficult to understand is the SNP administration’s shunning of the opportune moment that Brexit presents to “grab” yet more power.

Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon genuinely believes she can win the second referendum on so-called ‘independence’, despite recent opinion polls consistently showing Scotland would vote to stay part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, the Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson, in a recent interview in The Daily Telegraph’s Scottish edition, warned the SNP that they would lose a rerun of the 2014 vote by an “even larger margin”.

Yet, despite a recent opinion poll by BMG Research showing that only one in four Scots want a second independence referendum before Brexit talks are complete, the Scottish Parliament voted through a request for a Section 30 order from Westminster, giving the Scottish Government the power to hold a legally-binding referendum on so-called ‘independence’ between the Autumn of 2018 and Spring of 2019.

Theresa May is adamant that there won’t be a second referendum… at least not until after the Brexit negotiations have been completed, and the United Kingdom has left the European Union… So another referendum could still yet take place at some point in the future.

For the sake of this paper, let’s imagine Nicola Sturgeon eventually gets her way, and the UK Government grants the Scottish Parliament’s request for a Section 30 order. What would a second referendum look like?

Timing is everything… And so is the question…

Regardless of your views on ‘independence’, it must surely be fair to both sides of the argument, and most importantly to the Scottish people, that voters be able to make their choice at the ballot box based on full knowledge of how Brexit will work.

As First Minister Alex Salmond was more or less allowed to dictate the terms of the first referendum on Scottish ‘independence’ which was set out in the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012.

I recognise that the Agreement was signed at a time when the SNP had a majority in the Scottish Parliament so it must have been hard for the then Prime Minister David Cameron to reject the Nationalists’ mandate to hold a referendum following the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May 2011. Two crucial things however did disadvantage the Unionist cause.

The first was effectively allowing Alex Salmond to hold a two-year referendum campaign which gave him the time he needed to build support for a Yes vote; a calculation which almost paid off.

The current occupier of Bute House is presumably pushing so hard for a second referendum now because she hopes to benefit from a similar time advantage. Sturgeon has an enthusiastic base of core supporters left over from three years ago, and she no doubt wants to put them to good use instead of waiting, possibly beyond 2020, for her second bite at the cherry.

This time the Nationalist calculation is that a snap poll in the middle of what will of course be challenging Brexit negotiations can exploit apparent ‘uncertainty’ and deliver them victory – before Scotland is ‘dragged out’ of the European Union ‘against her will’.

The UK Government’s position is therefore right. It not only takes away the initiative of the SNP to ‘gerrymander’ the timing in their favour, but it also ensures that any second referendum in Scotland is based on fairness and experience of an independent United Kingdom after Brexit.

The second crucial thing was the question; ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ The very word ‘independence’ has a positive and proactive meaning which handed the argument to the Nationalists.

Objectively, few of us would ever choose to be ‘dependent’, and yet as you will read later, it was completely disingenuous for the Yes campaign to argue in the positive that Scotland would have been ‘liberated’ or ‘emancipated’ when ‘true independence’ was never actually on offer.

Undoubtedly, the question handed Nationalists the advantage. Voters were given a binary choice between another Nationalist positive, and a Unionist negative: ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. It was a loaded question, which is exposed as such when compared with the process undertaken to compose the question for the EU referendum.

After much debate, and representations from all sides, the UK’s Electoral Commission ruled that a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote would not be fair, nor indeed suffice, in a complex and multifaceted debate on whether we should ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ the European Union. In the end, they came up with a neutral, unemotional question which handed neither ‘Leave’ nor ‘Remain’ the advantage.

And so it must surely be right that if Scotland does hold a second crucial referendum on our constitution, the UK Electoral Commission be handed the responsibility again of writing the question.

The situation is now different from that in 2011: the SNP has no mandate to pursue another referendum, nor a majority in Holyrood. This time, Downing Street is just as entitled to have a say on the timing and question as Bute House.

The UK Government should make it clear that Scottish voters have a right to experience life in a truly independent United Kingdom, both the pros and cons of life after Brexit.

If there is to be a second Scottish referendum, it should only be held two or three years after the United Kingdom has left the European Union. And only then!

But whatever decision the Scottish people make in that ballot, the choices before them will be much more nuanced than last time.

The choices before the Scottish people

At this point it is important to clarify what the SNP mean by ‘independence’. Cast your mind back to the Scottish Government White Paper in 2014 and you will remember that they proposed a formal currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote.

This was soon rejected by the then UK Chancellor George Osborne, forcing the Scottish Government to propose the ‘Sterlingisation’ option which meant unilateral use of the Pound, but with the disadvantage that Scotland would have no control over monetary policy, nor have a Central Bank which could act as a lender of last resort.

In short, what the Yes campaign proposed on the ballot paper was separation, with dependency on the impulses of a foreign power Scotland would have spurned.

Scotland would have been unable to set interest rates, print money, or devalue. Ceding the fundamental levers of power which shape your economy does not allow you to claim true independence.

‘True Independence’, the preferred option of ‘more committed’ Nationalists who make up a significant tranche of the SNP’s grassroots, means full fiscal and monetary autonomy; a Scottish currency with its own central bank and interest rate; and the ability to levy taxes and borrow money.

A ‘True Independence’ supporter resists membership of global institutions such as the European Union, some even NATO, and demands a Scottish Armed Forces made up of whatever the UK Government agrees to share with Scotland once she has left the Union. For them her own territorial waters, including the much-discussed North Sea oil and fishing, a land border with the UK and her own immigration policy, are an important part of reclaiming Scottish sovereignty.

Without EU membership, a ‘truly independent’ Scotland would of course not be part of the EU’s Single Market to which she exports £12.3bn of goods and services, but free from the rulings of the European Court of Justice. Perhaps more crucially in financial terms, she would no longer be a ‘member’ of the UK’s ‘Single Market’ where her exports are worth £49.8bn.

The path to ‘true independence’ is rocky, and the SNP know this!

It is why when a Currency Union and then Sterlingisation was rejected by the UK Government in 2014, they announced that the latter would be a transition currency. But a transition to what? Official SNP policy up until the 2008 Financial Crash had always been for an ‘independent’ Scotland to join the Euro.

The SNP has rather bashfully always put great faith in the idea that the best path to ‘freedom’ is to separate Scotland from the UK and join a Federal United States of Europe. Its belief has always been that the rights of its citizens, security and economic future can be protected inside a Federal Europe, but you could be forgiven for not knowing this. It’s not a policy they advertise with any great enthusiasm.

In fact, since the then First Minister Alex Salmond was forced to drop his much-vaunted idea of an ‘Arc of Prosperity’ (the proposed economic and trading alliance between Ireland, Iceland and Norway), and then subsequently drop formal plans to adopt the Euro, the SNPs silence has been deafening.

Before a second referendum takes place in Scotland, the SNP will need to come clean. If ‘True Independence’ is left off the ballot paper again, then they need to be clear what exactly it is they will be asking the Scottish People to vote for.

To me the choice they want to offer Scots is becoming more and more apparent:

–       Separation from the UK and dependency on the EU

A second Scottish referendum could end up being a hybrid plebiscite, not so much debating ‘independence’, but answering a refined Brexit question. And that is no bad thing for Unionists.

Assuming the Scottish Government were successful, and Spain did not veto their membership, re-entering the EU would mean adopting the Euro – taking the SNP back full circle to 2008; a more honest time for manifesto promises.

There is no avoiding the fact that Scotland would have formally to adopt the currency. Scotland would be forced to inherit the European Central Bank’s interest rate, and a monetary policy geared towards maintaining the success of the German economy. Much like Greece, Scottish jobs and inflation would be secondary concerns.

But all this assumes that Scotland could meet the convergence criteria of a less than 60% debt to GDP ratio, and reducing the deficit to GDP ratio below 3%. Such a feat is likely to take the Scottish Government years. According to the TaxPayers’ Alliance in 2015/16 Scotland had a deficit to GDP ratio of 9.5% – the highest in the EU, twice that of the UK, and even higher than that of Greece. Scotland under the SNP is some way off meeting these targets.

If the timetable remains on track, in two years the United Kingdom will leave the Common Fisheries Policy and Common Agricultural Policy, both of which have caused significant damage to Scotland’s fishing and farming communities. It is clear from reading the Scotland Act that competency over rural affairs and fishing, not to mention the environment, business regulation, and transport, rests with the Scottish Parliament.

There can be no doubt that powers and responsibilities returning from Brussels in these areas are going straight to Scotland. The UK Government is committed to this aim, and I am encouraged that it is right, and will happen.

Having already created the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world, Brexit is going to make the Scottish Parliament even more powerful.

It seems extraordinary therefore that a Party which said in its manifesto, and has argued for decades, that it wants more powers for Scotland, is now committed to giving them away. At a time when the SNP could empower the Scottish Parliament, they are preparing the ground for a referendum which would see them giving newly returned powers back to Brussels. It is a bizarre paradox.

Make no mistake, ‘independence’ would not be on the ballot paper. A vote for the SNP’s interpretation of ‘independence’ would be a vote to make Scotland less powerful. Scotland would be anything but an ‘independent nation’, but instead a small separated one with hardly any voice inside the EU and Single Market, while losing access to the UK’s Single Market and the trade deals which the UK is seeking to sign with the more prosperous parts of the world.

It is why, following the EU referendum in which pro Leave SNP MPs and MSPs were allegedly ‘gagged’, Eurosceptic Nationalists are finding their voice. The SNP’s former Deputy Leader Jim Sillars has said he would not vote for so-called ‘independence’ in a second Scottish referendum if it meant re-joining the EU after Brexit. In a recent interview with The Herald newspaper he said he would abstain and believed many SNP supporters would follow suit:

“I do not want to be run by an unelected, self-serving elite… I, for example, could not vote Yes if on the ballot paper it said, ‘We wish the Scottish state to be a member of the European Union’, and I’m not alone in that… One of the biggest miscalculations by Nicola Sturgeon is to believe that the 1.6m Scots who voted Remain would automatically then vote to go back into the European Union… That means Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Tory party, and all the Tories who voted to Remain, would in fact vote to leave the United Kingdom and take a Scottish state into the European Union. I think that’s fantasy.”

Jim Sillars is not alone. Survation estimates that 34.9% of surveyed voters who backed the SNP in last year’s Holyrood elections voted to leave the EU in the UK-wide referendum, presenting Sturgeon with a difficult conundrum.

As a Leaver, I share Jim Sillars sentiments towards the EU, and as a Unionist I part company with him over ‘independence’. But as someone who fought hard in 2014 to preserve our precious 300-year-old Union I believe the UK Government must do all it can to find a new settlement that Scotland and the Scottish people can be comfortable with; a settlement that has broad support, and longevity.

This is where the second option on the ballot paper can play a significant part in answering the Brexit Question.

–       Staying in an independent Federal UK

This second option should be an invitation to Scottish voters to empower their Parliament through Brexit. Scotland is a divided country so this invitation needs to be open to both Nationalists and Unionists alike. With 45% of voters demonstrating very clearly in 2014 that they are not content with the status quo, it will be hard in the future to maintain the Union without reforming the way that it works for all its people.

The second option needs to say that if it is independence you crave then look no further than the United Kingdom which, having invoked Article 50 on 29th March 2017, is well on the path to regaining hers, and is committed to sharing sovereignty among the family of nations.

The UK constitution has undergone dramatic changes in the last twenty years which has seen the creation of devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and since then further powers devolved.

The Scottish Parliament is the most powerful devolved parliament in the world. In financial terms, it is more powerful than most federal states with comparative legislatures, including Germany, the United States and Australia.

Brexit presents Scotland with an opportunity to repatriate to existing institutions even more powers over fishing, farming, the environment, business regulations, transport, and the law.

Should Scotland choose this second option she would naturally keep Sterling and continue to be part of the decision-making process which sets interest rates and determines money supply.

She would be protected by HM Armed Forces, remain a member of the Commonwealth, NATO and have access to the 30 or so trade deals on offer to the UK which amount to roughly 60% of the world’s GDP. She would also continue to benefit from the Barnett Formula.

But if Scotland is to benefit from Brexit by staying in the United Kingdom, then others within the family of nations should benefit too by having the same powers and responsibilities.

After years of patchwork reform, we have ended up with a constitutional ‘dog’s breakfast’; an unfair and unclear system where the West Lothian Question remains unanswered and political and democratic inequality exists between the nations.

In November 2014, the Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell sought to rectify this by introducing a Ten-Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons to create a federal United Kingdom, with separate parliaments for each of the four nations, leaving the UK Parliament responsible for defence, foreign affairs, national security, and the macroeconomy. Unfortunately, his Bill didn’t make progress.

Many nationalists in Scotland however, and not just those who voted Leave, would be attracted by a second option which incorporates this thinking. Federalism would constitutionalise the existing and newly repatriated powers of the Scottish Parliament, and further enhance its role in deciding policies which the governing party believes will directly improve the lives of the Scottish people.

The attraction of the second option to those who up until now have identified themselves as ‘Yes’ voters is an obvious one, as a federal constitutional arrangement inside the UK is a more empowering alternative to the emasculating option that separation and EU dependency offers.

Brexit and Federalism can save the Union

In a post-Brexit, independent Federal UK, the new beginning a second option offers would address the problem of our politics being far too centralised, and our country being far too divided.

Federalism would clearly set out in statute the powers and responsibilities of the Governments of each federal state, be it England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, and of course the principle of pooling resources across the nations of the UK.

There could be no disputes from nationalist governments in the Celtic fringes playing a game of divide and rule with Westminster, and where there might be disputes, these could easily be resolved by The Supreme Court. We would move towards a more harmonious constitutional settlement.

Post-Brexit federalism would see off divisive nationalism and set the glue that would bind us together as one People sharing this new unique island at the centre of the world, and which we all call our home.

David Roach

This article first appeared on the Bruges Group’s website and is used with permission.