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Wings Over Scotland

The thunder of guns

Posted on December 11, 2012 by

If there’s one thing we all ought to grudgingly respect about the No campaign, it’s its ability to get all its ducks in a row and pump out an absolutely united and consistent lie. It’s a lot like a World War 1 artillery barrage – impressive in the sheer co-ordinated brute force of its display, even if it’s in fact completely useless in achieving its desired objective and ultimately leads only to a slaughter of its own troops.

Jose Manuel Barroso must be marvelling at it today. Time after time after time he’s quite unmistakeably said “I am NOT referring to Scotland, I’m talking in generalities”, only for the British media to report it, with a single unified voice, as the EC President making clear and specific proclamations directly about Scotland.

With a lack of professional journalistic self-respect that in a taking-one-for-the-team sort of way is almost admirable, Alan Cochrane leads the line for the Telegraph today:

“And so, yesterday, we had the denouement in an interview on BBC TV’s Hardtalk. In the clearest of terms, in words of one syllable, slowly and surely but allowing for no misinterpretation, or textual analysis, Mr Barroso spelt out the facts.

If Scotland decided to be independent – something, he added, that it has a “sovereign right to do” – it would be a new state and as such it would have to apply for EU membership.”

The irony is overwhelming – Cochrane actively and blatantly misrepresents Barroso in the very same breath that he claims the President’s comments were absolutely un-misinterpretable. It is a simple matter of empirical fact that Barroso did NOT say Scotland would be a new state, either in the BBC interview or his letter. He couldn’t possibly have been more clear that he was NOT speaking about Scotland’s specific and unique situation, but about general principles.

Yet the Unionist media seems to have just driven a tank over the inconvenient reality and blithely asserted that Senor Barroso was doing the exact, precise thing he so carefully and repeatedly said he wasn’t doing.

“The SNP Government was on collision course with the European Commission last night after Nicola Sturgeon refused to accept a ruling by the body’s president that a newly independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU.” (The Scotsman)

“An independent Scotland would be outside the EU and face joining the euro if it wants membership, the president of the European Commission said yesterday.” (The Scottish Daily Express, adding a whole extra layer of misrepresentation to Barroso’s comments, which didn’t mention the Euro at all)

“Barroso: it’s ‘obvious’ independent Scotland must re-apply for EU membership” (The Herald, being careful about which bits it puts in actual quotes despite the whole headline being attributed to the President)

“José Manuel Barroso: Independent Scotland not EU member” (The Telegraph with just one of many similar headlines in the paper on the story)

“Scotland will be made to reapply for EU membership after independence, says EU chief” (The Scotsman)

“Barroso: no automatic entry to EU for Scotland” (The Times)

For the elimination of any last remaining sliver of doubt, we decided the only sensible thing to do was get an official response from the European Commission itself. An alert reader dropped the Commission a line after the BBC interview went public:

“Scotland is a founder member of the United Kingdom, the two parliaments of England and Scotland were joined in 1707 by a Treaty between nation states. Scotland is not, therefore, a region of England or the UK becoming independent, but a signatory to the EU treaty through its partnership in the Union.

Is President Barroso therefore saying that Scotland is a “mere region” breaking away, or are the circumstances he outlined inapplicable in these circumstances?

Thank you for your time”

The reply arrived just before 7pm last night. (Our emphasis.)

“The European Commission has not commented on a specific scenario – it will only give its legal opinion on a specific scenario, if requested to by a Member State (in this case, the UK Government).”

It doesn’t seem ambiguous, does it? It’s rather odd that so much of the UK media has somehow managed to arrive at such a markedly different – some might say just plain wrong – conclusion. We’re sure the misunderstanding will be cleared up soon.

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    38 to “The thunder of guns”

    1. Dan777_A says:

      don’t hold yer breath.

    2. scottish_skier says:

      Personally, I’m finding this all hilarious; it’s like a Christmas panto. I sit dumbfounded as the pro-union campaign enthusiastically lines itself up for disaster before my eyes. You can only cry wolf so many times after all. At this rate, we won’t even need a Yes campaign, unionists will simply drive Scotland out of the UK themselves through their sheer belligerence. 

    3. David McCann says:

      “The European Commission has not commented on a specific scenario – it will only give its legal opinion on a specific scenario, if requested to by a Member State (in this case, the UK Government).”

      Will someone PLEASE send this to the BBC?

    4. Stui says:

      It seems that he is saying two different things, one in the interview and one through his office, so i dont think we can reasonably blame the media for reporting it the more extreme of the two positions – they want to sell newspapers. From my view it is a real chaos, the EU should be able to set out a clear position, the hiding behind the “a member state must ask” then giving mixed messages is just wrong. I hope Ms Sturgeon can sort them out, if they dont give a clear statement then I really think an ultimatum is in order, EU must give clarity or SG will force clarity by setting out a position, e.g. Scotland is out on a YES vote then apply for EU or EFTA. I personally favour EFTA, works really well for Switzerland where i am now resident. 

    5. Indy_Scot says:

      I would not be surprised if Jose Manuel Barroso gets so fed up with being hounded and misrepresented by the unionist media, that there is an increase in the number of sick days he has over the next two years!

    6. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      It seems to me he said the exact same thing in the interview, repeatedly pointing out that he was speaking in generalities rather than about Scotland specifically.

    7. mogabee says:

      EFTA may work for Switzerland, but does Scotland want to finally find it’s voice to then have it diminished or lost?

    8. Jen says:

      The propaganda barrage gets a tad boring!

      I was never sure of the EU partly because I knew the line to take in the MSM was always negative and it rarely gave a positive case for the EU.  Very similar to indyref however, I’m starting to feel that the EU is something Scotland wants to avoid.  Mr Barroso surely knew this issue was going to come up and in my opinion handled it poorly. But then again, no matter what he said the media where going to portray it as “Scotland will not get in EU”. 

      I think the constant propaganda is going to push people towards voting Yes to Scotland and NO to the EU.    

    9. scottish_skier says:


      I think the constant propaganda is going to push people towards voting Yes to Scotland and NO to the EU.   

      The fact that we have those that support independence but not the EU, those that support independence and the EU, those that are not sure about independence but want out of the EU, those who are not sure about independence but want to be in the EU etc…. would suggest to me Scotland’s future position with regard to the EU is probably not the best line of attack against independence. 

      What is more amusing, is that at some point not too far from now, it will become clear that in the event of a Yes vote, Scotland will largely seamlessly move from being Scotland in the EU as part of the UK, to being in the EU just as Scotland. Anything else is just frankly ludicrous for very obvious reasons. Ergo, this is going to blow up in the pro-union campaign’s face big style. In fact it already is….

    10. Al Ghaf says:

      The deliberate conflation of “Negotiate” with “Apply”

      We were all expecting the Unionist machine to twist, hint, smear, attack and cherrypick up to 2014. And most agree that it will get worse before it ends.

      In 2014 the nonsense ends. I suspect to be replaced with new nonsense during the negotiations. 

    11. Stui says:

      Interviewer: “So if, and I am using the example of Scotland, and I appreciate you are not talking about specifics, but say a country like Scotland, it, say, chooses independence, it is then like a new state applying to the EU?”
      Jose Manuel Barroso: “For European Union purposes, from a legal point of view, it is certainly a new state. If a country becomes independent it is a new state and has to negotiate with the EU.

      the above is from the bbc transcript. That seems clear if the “it” is referring to Scotland. Then is contradicted by the office reply. Could be a language thing though, maybe he meant the “it” was referring to a non specific state? I frequently have work in other languages (i speak  languages with varying poor proficiency, sometimes i start to feel im losing my english..) and often make quite bad communication mistakes. 

    12. cath says:

      The white paper is not due out until next year. At the moment the Scottish government’s preferred option is remaining in the EU and negotiating from within, as EU citizens. However, unless the EU is willing to come out and gives clarity on this issue, I don’t see how the Scottish government can publish it with that statement. The White paper needs to be bullet-proof. So, if the EU are unable, or unwilling to counter this kind of propaganda, the White paper should simply not state we’ll carry on as an EU member, but suggest EFTA. Or say “the Scottish government will negotiate with both the EU and EFTA and put the choice to the Scottish people in a referendum”. I can’t see that losing any yes votes, and it may gain waverers or no voters. If the EU don’t like that, and don’t like being used as a propaganda tool byWestminster, it’s up to them to come out and state a position.
      Same with the currency issue.Scotlandstaying inSterlingis by far the best option for rUK. But if we’re going to have endless, “you can’t…we won’t let you…” then the White paper should suggest a Scots pound instead.

    13. TamD says:

      I pity the folk in Scotland that have to put up with this stuff for another 2 years. It’ll be enough to drive anybody nuts. Hey maybe thats the game plan. Lets add “We too crazy…..” to the we cannaes/ we wulnie able tae/ too much oil/ too little income…

    14. james morton says:

      said it before here and elsewhere – this is the phoney war or at least its regarded as the phoney war on the Indy side. The Unionist side don’t seem to have twigged and have started early. They’ll be out of ammo come the real campaign and will be forced to relaunch their “campaign” all over again.

      Watch as they start desperately talking about the need for a second question as the day draws nearer.

    15. muttley79 says:

      My problem with the Scottish media, with exception to MacWhirter, and maybe a few others, is that they have completely failed to provide context and very relevant background on the subject.  Whether this is down to incompetence or bias is unclear.  Nowhere in the issue of Scotland’s EU membership is there mention of the rise of UKIP, the Conservatives growing desire to hold a referendum on EU membership (last week Boris Johnson gave a speech saying he thought there should be a referendum), and the European elections before our own referendum.  However, these things are not discussed in relation to our referendum, even though they have far-reaching consequences.  Take the European elections in 2014 as an example.  They occur only months before the referendum.  If UKIP in England do as well as expected then calls for a withdrawal from the EU will intensify, just as we are on the verge of deciding on our future.  How are the No parties in Scotland going to respond to this? 

    16. gedguy2 says:

      Interesting, and fair, comments by Brian Taylor (Blether with Brian). Even he is not willing to take the BBC’s hardline anti-independence stance on this one. The fact that he is not doing so says something about what must be going on in Pacific Quay.

    17. AnneDon says:

      This could play very badly for unionists for an unreported reason:  Scots are only very slightly more pro-EU than the English. Our newspapers are not as racist about it, to give the devil his due, and it isn’t a priority in Scottish voting intentions.

      However, it’s a strong possibility that, if the SNP are unable to confirm EU membership would continue, due to Barrosso’s bumbling, the Yes campaign could find themselves the repository of a lot of anti-EU votes!

      The No campaign should be careful what they wish for!   

    18. Cuphook says:

      As yet, I’ve not received a reply to my email to Barroso. I’m sure that he was up all night composing a reply and forgot to press send.

      It really does surprise me that the Unionists are so short sighted. They really can’t believe that Scotland will be shunned like a leper, can they? I think that we will find out the answer before 2014 and once again the Unionist strategy will be shown up for the base cynicism that it is.

    19. Jen says:

      @scottishskier The language used by many reporters, such as a “a blow to the SNP”  is designed to cause the fear.  However, I think the relevance of the EU to most people’s lives is limited because they don’t see it thus the choice of the EU as part of the FUD campaign could be counter productive later. 


    20. Rod Macfarlane says:

      A very curious thing happened in Newsnicht Scotland last night….The consensus of the programme was if Barruso was saying this…He was talking Keech!!
      I nearly fell out of my chair!! Was I really watching NewsNicht or having some hallucinatory episode?

      There is more to this episode than meets the eye! I will come back to it later, just gathering my evidence for the moment…and its got heehaw to do with the EU.
      This is garbage is just NOISE!

    21. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “That seems clear if the “it” is referring to Scotland”

      It’s referring, explicitly, to “a country LIKE Scotland”.

    22. Luigi says:

      I wonder how many of the MSM reporters really believe in “Better Together”. Obviously, their jobs are on the line , and they are expected to do their duty. However, on ocassion, between the lines, I get the impression that thety are more sympathetic to and independent Scotland than they would have us believe (or, more importantly, have their bosses believe). Seeds of doubt have been sown. A few of them are on our side already, they just have to be very subtle about it.

    23. scottish_skier says:


      “a blow to the SNP

      I’m yet to see evidence of the SNP suffering any significant blows in polling data. Seem to be largely in the same position they were in May 2011.

      Just saying it will be a blow doesn’t actually make it one. In fact, it looks rather silly doing this. And anyway, 2014 is naff all to do with the SNP; they, along with other parties in Holyrood, are just going to ask Scots whether they prefer to be governed by the government they elected, or the one the people of the country next to Scotland elected. It is that which people will base their choice upon in 2014 ultimately because that’s what’s being asked. This is not lost on the electorate, much as the pro-union campaign would like it to be.

    24. mato21 says:

      My letter to the EU Might as well try and sow a little doubt in their minds that Scotland will not consider other options
      As a Scot with EU citizenship I would be obliged if you would clarify what my status will be after independence
      Mr Barroso tried to say in his interview that his remarks were not specifically directed at Scotland but the UK press and BBC have ignored this and have redoubled their efforts to spread fear and uncertainty attributing statements to him far and beyond what he said
      I would therefore suggest it is imperative on you to make what our position will be within the EU clear 
      The antipathy shown thus far to our small nation is counterproductive as the people of Scotland know that there are other options open to us and many are know looking seriously at these,we may well decide due to how we are being treated the EU is not the club we wish to join, regardless of the Politicos
      You may be unaware, as opposed to the rest of the UK the people of Scotland are sovereign and when we find our voice the decision may not be what you hope to hear, this will be wholly down to the indifference shown towards us
      We are, and have always been a nation equal in status to England as set out in The Act of Union, we are NOT a region or subordinate to England a fact often forgotten or ignored
      I look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience


    25. Pa Broon says:

      The Thunder of Guns?

      The Bumping of Gums mair like.


    26. Training Day says:

      The SNP are ‘dealt devastating blows’ on a daily basis in the Daily Mail. I’ve often wondered how many of these ‘devastating’ blows (which are, by definition, capable of causing devastation) will it take to cause devastation?  How have they recovered from these states of devastation only to suffer more devastation from devastating blows leading once again to devastation?

      An interesting semantic exercise which I will take up with Messrs Rodden and Blackley at the Daily Mail.  I’ll be devastated if I don’t get clarity.

    27. velofello says:

      I don’t think Barroso has been very smart. There no merit in talking in generalities when you know the interviewer is pursuing a specific case and he should have told the interviewer that and no more. Now he has the Scottish Government chasing him and the EU stance of only responding to an official request from a government will not wash. The realpolitics are that the EU will need now to respond in specific terms to the Scottish government. failure to do so would be a snub to Scotland.
      In UK political terms the situation is truly farcical. A substantial faction of the unionists who try and worry the Scots that they will lose EU membership seemingly want themselves to leave the EU. Meantime reading responses, and I confess, listening to Call Kaye call-ins this morning, we Scots don’t seem to be overly concerned and would like to be better informed of the options, and the experiences of our near, and successful, Nordic neighbours before deciding on the EU. Post-referendum on independence.  

    28. Aplinal says:

      Yes, I took a quick dram and listened to Call Kay(e) and was surprised by a few of the contributors who basically ripped up the pro-dependency obsession with the OPINION of Barroso.  I missed the name of one caller who had been an MEP in Germany after the reunification, and he was quite dismissive.
      Other “ordinary” callers seemed pretty non-fussed about the shabang.

    29. velofello says:

      I think his name is Hugh Kerr, and he put forward the notion that a successful negotiation over EU membership for Scotland would take about 24 hours! 

    30. ayemachrihanish says:

      Wonderful, let’s just say he is talking about Scotland – no offence to the rest of the UK intended. 
      The context.
      The European Commission’s view has been on the public record since 2004 and was confirmed on 3 December 2012.
      The European Commission’s view is on the public record. The answer given by Mr Barroso to a question in the European Parliament (EP) on 3 December 2012: “Yes.
      The legal context has not changed since 2004 as the Lisbon Treaty has not introduced any change in this respect.
      Therefore the Commission can confirm its position as expressed in 2004 in the reply to the written question P-0524/04.”
      The answer given by Mr Prodi on behalf of the Commission in the EP on 1 March 2004: (P-0524/04)
      QUOTE “The European Communities and the European Union have been established by the relevant treaties among the Member States. The treaties apply to the Member States (Article 299 of the EC Treaty). When a part of the territory of a Member State ceases to be a part of that state, e.g. because that territory becomes an independent state, the treaties will no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a newly independent region would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply anymore on its territory. Under article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, any European State which respects the principles set out in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union may apply to become a member of the Union. An application of this type requires, if the application is accepted by the Council acting unanimously, a negotiation on an agreement between the Applicant State and the Member States on the conditions of admission and the adjustments to the treaties which such admission entails. This agreement is subject to ratification by all Member States and the Applicant State.” END QUOTE.
      The wonderful opportunities. All referenced above.
      The European Union have been established by the relevant treaties – agreed
      The treaties apply to the Member States (Article 299 of the EC Treaty – agreed
      When a part of the territory of a Member State (Scotland) ceases to be a part of that state (UK) – the treaties will no longer apply to (Scotland) that territory – agreed

      and grab that deal with both fish.
      So for example, on successful concluding and signing off negotiations with Westminster on of the ending of the UK – “as the ink dries”,
      a 200 mile international fishery exclusion zone drops into Scotland’s lap! Fine!!
      Scotland becomes a self sufficient nation in water, food, fuel and energy! Fine!!
      Scotland becomes a self sufficient resource rich independent global neighbours . That’s fine!!
      All the treaties that formally applied to Scotland as a Member States (Article 299 of the EC Treaty) cease! That’s fine too!!
      So the deal is,  exit the UK and as the ink dries , become a third country with respect to the EU and its former treaties. Thereafter, decide what future EU treaties are in the best interests of the people of Scotland. Fine!
      You would think we were too wee, too stupid and too poor to even pick the pen up never mind decide what’s best for us!!    

    31. Barroso simply repeated well-known EU law in general terms, while being forced into a particular context by the interviewer. This added no clarity to the debate, which I suspect was the point of the exercise.

      For more clarity, see:

    32. scottish_skier says:

      The pro-union campaign are simply desperate to find a very clear reason why Scotland just can’t be independent; some insurmountable barrier which makes it a complete non-starter. That’s of course asking the impossible.
      At the same time, there’s no obvious reason for Scotland being in full political union with another country, especially one far greater in population. If there was, everyone would be at it; we’d see examples all over the globe. A shared enjoyment of e.g. Eastenders just doesn’t cut the mustard.
      The reason for the union was empire. The empire is dead and gone; it ended in 1997 when the sun finally set on Hong Kong. That same year, Scotland began its exit in earnest. These two events are not completely co-incidental.
      By 2016, Scotland will in all probability be an independent country again. First to join, last to leave (excluding conquered Wales). The Gaussian empirical rise and fall curve heads to completion. Somewhat poignant that Ireland joined 94 years after and left 94 years before Scotland (2016 elections).

    33. Luigi says:

      Scotland’s union with England may have lasted 300 years, but there was an older partnership that lasted almost as long: the Auld Alliance (Scotland and France, 1295-1560).

    34. Stevie says:

      The BritNats seem to think we all care deeply about this but we don’t.
      Ironically, the BritNats wan a referendum on continuing EU membership.
      The majority of the electorate must be becoming disinterested in the BritNats great cause on trashing Scotland as a viable European country.
      Trash trashing = trash

    35. Tamson says:

      @muttley79 – in your analysis of the UK context of the EU issue, you’ve missed out one very significant factor.
      There’s a growing anti-EU wing in Labour at Westminster now, and they were pressuring Miliband earlier this year to triangulate Cameron, by promising a referendum after the 2015 GE. Miliband rejected that last month, but if the current anti-EU sentiment continues to build in (mainly) England, it could result in his party getting a kicking in the 2014 European elections.
      That would be a massive setback for him going into the 2015 UK GE: if it was followed up by a Yes in the Scottish referendum, it could end Miliband’s career (whilst Labour doesn’t “need Scotland” to get elected, south of the border Scotland is very much seen as Labour heartlands, and the loss would be viewed as hugely damaging).

    36. Simon says:

      ayemachrihanish, what is not clear to me is what the difference is, post-independence, between Scotland in the North, and England-Wales in the South. Both are now independent countries, both have left the Union they joined in 1707.

      I don’t see how the international status of one should be any different from the international status of the other.

      And for the record, I am not a big fan of the EU in its current form. I don’t see it as much different to the 1707 Union – it is a transfer of political power and accountability up the food chain and away from the local and national community.

    37. ayemachrihanish says:

      Simon, the point above was not advocating in or out of the EU but simply pointing out that if you confront the Unionist fear-mongers with the facts the fear disappears.

       But to address the question you raise other than the obviously democratic and  political adjustments, post independence, the difference is – there is no difference!  It would just be exactly as one finds it throughout the British Isles today. 

      Two examples – Firstly, I frequently fly to then travel by car from Belgium to  Germany to Holland maybe back to Germany maybe back to Belgium. Each country has identical international status but is different democratically and politically – BUT it’s just one big space! People move about day to day untroubled by any ideas of borders. No one bothers about them. 

      Second example – sometimes I drive to England then maybe to Wales maybe back to England. What’s different? Nothing really. After Independence each rUK country will have identical international status to Scotland  – but remarkably also no change – just the same as today.  Each former UK country will be different democratically and politically – BUT, as now,  it will be just one big space. People (us) will  move about day to day untroubled by ideas of borders. Of course, around the time pre and post referendum, there will be an uplift in each nations national identity – a bit like the World Cup or Jubilee – but soon after it will quite rightly comes to rest and then people will simply get back to being harmonious good neighbours.   

      I’m not a big fan of the EU under the UK either. But as an Independent Scotland – like our Scandinavian cousins – where are we going to get rid of all that surplus renewable energy ?? Let’s keep the fish – all 200 miles of exclusion like Iceland and exchange the fish for EU access to our clean renewable energy! Why Not?

    38. scottish_skier says:

      removed, in wrong place

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