By Alex Robertson
There has been a debate in progress inside the EU which has gone on for one or two decades already, but which the UK, or at least the Whitehall/Westminster village (White-minster?) ignores, as it does most intellectual thinking across the English Channel.
The debate centres around reform of the EU, or at least the member states of the EU.
The idea has been around for a while of a Europe of smaller nation-states, which would leave Europe without the big beasts like Germany, France, Italy, Spain or the UK. It really does involve a real confederation where no single country or small number of countries can dominate all the others.
To the ears of White-minster denizens, such an idea is heresy pure and simple, and probably in Paris, Berlin, Rome and Madrid likewise. But the debate is worth having.
Of course, it is pretty fundamental reform, but I gather Independentistas in Flanders and Catalonia are keeping an eye on Scotland to see how the wind blows. And if Scots do vote for independence on 2014, then the interest will perk up considerably, and not only in Flanders and Catalonia. Bavaria, Northern Italy and parts of France will pop up with similar ideas, be sure.
But the more you think about the idea, the more it grows on you. In the EU is enshrined the idea of subsidiarity, which means pushing down responsibility for decisions, power, to the lowest level possible unless there are compelling reasons to retain it at a higher level.
Under this kind of reform, Europe would have one centrally administered defence and foreign policy, and some kind of central macro-economic policy. That is only the beginning, the basic bare bones of the idea. But if you think about it, there is no reason why a great deal of flexibility, choice and internal market possibilities can’t be accommodated within the boundaries of a small-nation Europe.
I confess to being greatly attracted by the prospect of Scotland joining other small countries inside an EU and working with our partners to form collaborative solutions to our needs for Defence and Foreign Affairs, retaining for ourselves always the right to decide which partnerships to join and which not to join.
And I also confess to finding the position of White-minster singularly unimaginative and unintelligent. Scotland can do better by far making its own decisions and arrangements and freeing itself from the constraints of an Imperial phase Union which offers Scotland few if any benefits and confines us in significant ways.