There’s been a lot of nonsense from both sides of the EU referendum campaign, but of all the terrible arguments for voting one way or the other, the worst has to be that the UK is not currently independent.
For supporters of Scottish independence, watching people claim the UK is not independent is like someone in Aberdeen who just had their disability benefits cut listening to a middle-class couple on a joint income of £100,000 moaning about paying a few hundred pounds a year more in council tax for their band H mansion in affluent Rubislaw Den South.
It’s particularly loathsome seeing the genuine arguments for Scottish independence being re-purposed by people who claimed they were invalid two years ago – no more so, perhaps, than in the case of George Galloway, the man who wants independence for every country in the world except his own.
The idea that the UK’s situation is comparable to Scotland’s is simply laughable, and since laughing is good for the soul, let’s look at a few points in detail.
Scotland currently harbours a multi-billion pound nuclear weapons system, sited a mere 30 miles from its most populous city despite the overwhelming cross-party opposition of our MPs in Westminster and our MSPs in Holyrood. Every single person in Scotland could be against nuclear weapons, and it wouldn’t matter a jot – the UK wants them, and the UK decides where to put them.
The EU, however, has no such power to force the UK to hold nuclear weapons. The UK alone decides whether the UK has nuclear weapons and where to put them. The EU also has no power to decide when the UK goes to war, whereas Westminster alone decides if Scottish troops are to be sent on yet another doomed imperialist adventure to die on foreign soil.
Scotland gives all its money to the UK Treasury, which then decides how much we’re allowed back in pocket money in the form of the Scottish block grant, using a formula based on Westminster’s spending decisions rather than the actual needs of Scots. (The limited changes in the Scotland Act do not alter the overall trend of money going from Scotland to the UK Treasury.)
This is in direct contrast to the UK’s position with the EU, where the UK keeps all the money it generates and then pays what is effectively a membership fee to the EU out of those proceeds. It’s even allowed to be part of the Multiannual Financial Framework process that decides how big that membership fee should be, which includes a rebate to the UK to try to placate the kind of people who sneer about “the French”.
Regardless of what people say about the unelected EU Commission, the fact is they can only propose laws. For a proposal to be passed as EU law, it must be approved by parliamentarians who were directly elected by the citizens of the EU, in elections using a system of proportional representation. It is not – as some idiots would have people believe – a “dictatorship”.
Compare this to Scotland, where laws are regularly inflicted on us despite near-unanimous opposition from our representatives in Westminster. To add insult to injury, these laws are rubber-stamped at the end by the unelected House of Lords – often by the very same people who were overwhelmingly rejected by voters just a few months previously, or even worse, by people who are there purely because they’ve got the right friends.
And of course, the Scottish Parliament exists only as long as Westminster allows it, whereas the EU has no power to abolish the UK parliament.
THE FINAL INSULT
But the biggest reason this is such an insult is when comparing the referendums themselves. In order to hold a referendum on independence from the UK, Scotland first had to effectively break an electoral system in order to get enough parliamentary support, before asking for permission from the very entity we were trying to get independence from, which then dictated the terms and time-scale under which the referendum could be held.
Even if we had voted to leave, there was nothing actually stopping the UK government from ignoring the result – Scottish Labour would almost certainly have campaigned on a “vote Labour to reverse the referendum result” ticket in 2015.
In contrast, the UK government has had to ask no-one’s permission to hold a referendum on leaving the EU, and is holding it entirely on its own terms. In fact, Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union specifically notes:
“Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”
It even states the time-scale for such a withdrawal. The only people who could ignore the result of the referendum are the UK government themselves.
This, more than anything, encapsulates the absurdity of trying to claim the UK is not an independent country. The EU is a voluntary union where nations collaborate as equal members, any of whom can leave at any time of their choosing. But Scotland is subservient to Westminster in a union of unequal members. The two situations are not in the least comparable.
If you’re still not sure which way you’re voting on the 23rd June, you could do a lot worse than vote the way that would most annoy the kind of people who make the idiotic claim that the UK suffers from the same democratic deficit as Scotland.
Wings Over Scotland has no position on the EU referendum. Contributors’ opinions on the subject are their own.