with Alex Salmond, First Minister and MSP for Aberdeenshire East

First Minister Alex Salmond speaking in Carlisle.
First Minister Alex Salmond speaking in Carlisle.

Scotland in Europe: Enthusiastic, Engaged and Committed

The people of Scotland, in stark comparison to the government at Westminster, believe that membership of the European Union is in the best interests of Scotland.

An absolute priority for the Scottish Government following a vote for independence in September will be to enter discussions with the UK government and the other member states and institutions of the EU to agree the process whereby a smooth transition to Scotland’s full membership of the EU takes place.

An as an independent and equal member state we will bring a positive and cooperative voice to the EU, in contrast to the sullen disengagement and disinterest that has been so characteristic of Westminster speaking to Europe on our behalf in recent years.

Not being at the top table has harmed Scotland’s interests for four decades.

To demonstrate, Scotland has one of the largest national shares of Europe’s total fishing grounds and 12 national fleets fishing in our waters. Yet we have less formal say in fisheries policy than landlocked countries such as Austria and Slovakia.

As an independent Member State, Scotland will be negotiating as one of the foremost and most respected fishing nations in Europe. This status will give Scotland the opportunity to lead, rather than be led.

Nowhere is this argument more central than in the North East.

By the same token, I want my constituents on farms and crofts across Aberdeenshire East to enjoy the best of Europe; not to have their interests traded off against other UK priorities time and time again in EU negotiations where Scotland has no voice.

Successive Westminster governments have argued Scotland out of a good deal for our farmers.

An independent Scotland would prioritise our own – engaging with the EU to secure a fairer return.

When we share the same objectives as the rest of the UK we will continue to work with them, but where we don’t we will no longer be bound to a position which harms our interests.

The EU is an institution which enables countries of all sizes to contribute as equal partners, and which is an enduring rebuke to any notion that independence might mean isolation.

The Scottish Government’s negotiations on continued membership of the EU will be completed within the 18 month period between a Yes vote in September and achieving independence in March 2016 – and that’s in the opinion of the UK Government’s own legal expert on such matters, Professor James Crawford.

Sir David Edwards, former judge of the European Court of Justice, has stated that “there will be an obligation to negotiate a solution that does no lead to the absurd result that is being suggested” of Scotland being made to leave the EU only to immediately re-apply for membership.

Scotland will seek continued membership on the basis of “continuity of effect” and at no detriment to other members. This is a practical and commonsense position.

The alternative is absurd. It has no legal basis in European treaties and flies against the founding principles of the European Union.

The European Movement, the oldest pro-European campaign group in the UK last week said it was “inconceivable that the EU collectively would wish unilaterally to withdraw citizenship from 5.3 million of its citizens who have participated in the European project for 40 years.

The No campaign’s doom and gloom tactics and scaremongering over Scotland’s EU membership will unravel just as with their posturing on currency.

Nobody will gainsay the agreed outcome of a peaceful and consensual referendum on independence.

So let’s focus on the real issues instead; what Scotland can contribute and how useful we can be to the rest of the European Union.

Conversely, let’s look forward to what we can gain in turn from a full role in the European family of nations.