The chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Bertie Armstrong, was reported in yesterday’s Press & Journal as saying that a vote for independence would leave Scotland with a weaker voice in the EU, as it would only have seven votes in the Council of EU Ministers, compared to the UK’s 29 votes.
(Which it would likely retain even in the event of losing 5.3 million of its citizens, due to the Treaty of Nice favouring the six largest countries: Germany, France, Italy and the UK all have 29 votes, while Spain and Poland have 27 each; the next largest is the Netherlands with only 13, even though the difference between their population size and Poland’s is exactly the same as that between Poland’s and the UK’s).
But Mr Armstrong seems to be having a problem with his arithmetic.
Currently, when it comes to a vote in the Council of EU Ministers which will affect both Scotland and the rest of the UK, there are four possible scenarios in terms of whatever issue is being debated:
1. It’s beneficial to both Scotland and the rest of the UK
2. It’s detrimental to both Scotland and the rest of the UK
3. It’s beneficial to Scotland but detrimental to the rest of the UK
4. It’s detrimental to Scotland but beneficial to the rest of the UK
At the moment, as long as scenarios 1 or 2 apply, then Scotland is okay – the UK will vote in our favour. However, in scenarios 3 and 4, the UK will vote based on what benefits the majority (well, for what benefits the Square Mile in London), and therefore AGAINST what’s in Scotland’s interests.
Now that’s all well and proper – it’s the responsibility of any government to act in the best interests of the biggest number of its citizens. But let’s see what it means for the interests of Scotland:
(green = the right outcome for Scotland)
Scenario 1: +29 votes
Scenario 2: +29 votes
Scenario 3: -29 votes
Scenario 4: -29 votes
Hmm, it’s not looking too good in those last two. But let’s see what happens if Scotland becomes independent and has its own representation:
Scenario 1: 7 + 29 = +36 votes
Scenario 2: 7 + 29 = +36 votes
Scenario 3: 7 – 29 = -22 votes
Scenario 4: 7 – 29 = -22 votes
In all four scenarios, Scotland is better served by having those seven votes of its own in the Council of EU Ministers than not having them. If something is in our favour but not the rUK’s, we can mitigate against the rUK opposition, potentially combining with other member states to change the outcome.
Conversely, if something is in our favour AND the rUK’s favour, then we form an even bigger voting bloc than at present. You might even say we’d be, well, better together.
There is simply no situation in which Scotland would be arithmetically disadvantaged by having its own voice in the EU. There are, however, situations where the rUK would find itself disadvantaged by suddenly having seven extra votes that were outside its control. They might even have to – God forbid – negotiate with the Scots and treat us like equals in order to get our support.
We’re not entirely sure what the bad part of that is supposed to be.