Scotland pays the price for UK irresponsibility

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By Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond
 
The SNP Government has always believed that Scotland’s interests can be properly served only by having our own voice in Europe.

But Mr Cameron’s actions have only helped make our argument for us, says Alex Salmond.


By Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond
 
The SNP Government has always believed that Scotland’s interests can be properly served only by having our own voice in Europe.

But Mr Cameron’s actions have only helped make our argument for us, says Alex Salmond.


After the heady brew of the Cameron veto, this week’s political and economic hangover shows the cost of reckless and anti-social behaviour.

Of course the increasingly bitter cross channel broadsides between London and Paris have their funny side.

For example we are expected to believe that Nick Clegg, who lacks the guts to turn up in the House of Commons, is capable of administering a stern telling off to the neighbours!

But for Scotland and for Europe this amusement comes at a potentially heavy price.

The SNP Government has always believed that Scotland’s interests can be properly served only by having our own voice in Europe.  But Mr Cameron’s actions have only helped make our argument for us.

The Prime Minister acted irresponsibly in deploying the non-veto at last week’s summit.  Non-veto because there was no new treaty on the table for anyone to sign.

It wasn’t on the City of London that the Prime Minister’s attention was focussed but the Mayor of London – the standard bearer for the Tory Eurosceptics who now make the political weather in the House of Commons.  But Cameron’s political posturing comes at a heavy economic price.

To understand the economic consequences of Cameron we have to understand what the other countries were trying to do.  They were attempting to get an agreement to proceed within a Treaty framework for tighter fiscal rules for the Eurozone – and only for the Eurozone.

Because they were to be within a Treaty, it would have made the discipline enforceable through the European institutions such as the Court of Justice.  That, in turn, would have allowed the European Central Bank to justify acting as lender of the last resort – the wheeling out of the big bazooka which Cameron himself has been demanding for long enough.

Potentially that would have put the financial markets into a much better place.  Instead, whatever the brave face placed on intergovernmental agreements, all of this is up in the air, while this week’s Anglo-French rhetoric has seen the descent into an unsightly scramble to avoid being the next country picked on by the ratings agencies.

There is an exact analogy in this verbal spat with the beggar my neighbour protectionist economics of the 1930s which turned a stock market crash into a world recession.

Whether that is the end game of the current contretemps is difficult to say.  What is certain is that it has already cost billions in potential investments.  Global companies with the firepower to invest in this part of Europe want a stable Eurozone and a United Kingdom which has a bridge to Europe not a fast rising drawbridge.

And then what of Scotland?

This week has seen vital fishing talks in Brussels between EU member states, with crucial implications for Scotland’s hard-pressed fishing fleet.  These annual negotiations are always tough, but Mr Cameron’s actions have made it even harder to obtain the support of the countries we need to fend off regulation which would have been disastrous for a vital Scottish industry.

And it is not just farming and fishing which are jeopardised by the Tory stance on Europe.  Around 45 per cent of all of Scotland’s exports are to the EU – and are worth about £9.6 billion a year – and at a time when we are striving with all of the powers currently at our disposal to create jobs, investment and sustained economic recovery Scotland simply cannot afford the economic and consequences of the narrow politics of Mr Cameron.

And the people know it.  Whatever the irritations of European meddling, the bottom line is that the saloon bar rhetoric of the Daily Mail cuts little ice north of the border.  There is a reason that Scotland now has more giant pandas than Tory MPs.

Scottish Government Ministers are now engaging with a range of stakeholders in Europe so that our friends and partners across the continent know that many in Scotland understand the attractions of becoming a fully fledged European nation not a political appendage of an ever smaller England.