In the last few hundred years there have been few periods that will prove so decisive in shaping the direction of Scotland. On 18th September Scots will be go to the polls do decide whether to remain in the United Kingdom. Then in 2017 the UK (whether Scotland is a member or not) will vote on leaving the European Union.
The combination of these two referenda could be huge for everyone living in the British Isles. So as part of or ‘A Minute With…’ series Breitbart London (BL) asked the Scottish National Party (SNP) Leader in the European Parliament, Ian Hudghton, to answer a few questions.
BL: How do you feel the SNP has contributed to the European Parliament this term? What are you most proud of?
Hudghton: The SNP has contributed to the European Parliament by ensuring that Scotland’s voice is not ignored on the key issues that affect our country. We are the only party that can truly say our priority is always standing up for the interests of people in Scotland, because we do not have to answer to Westminster. We have stood up for Scotland’s interests and secured important concessions on farming and fishing that will make a real difference to those sectors, which I am particularly proud of.
BL: What are the main benefits of Scottish Independence for both Scotland, the UK and the EU?
Hudghton: A Yes vote for an independent Scotland will mean that the major decisions in Scotland are made by people in Scotland – rather than by a Westminster Government whose priorities are not the same as people living here. We will gain the ability to make decisions that reflect Scotland’s circumstances and the powers we need to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country.
A Yes vote will also mean that Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK becomes one of close and respected partners who cooperate closely on the many issues where it is in both countries’ interests to do so. Scotland has been an integral part of the EU for more than 40 years now and has developed extensive economic and social ties with our neighbours across the continent which it would be in nobody’s interest to disrupt. A Yes vote will ensure that Scotland and everything we bring to the EU remains part of the EU.
BL: Are you disappointed that European Leaders like Barroso are so negative about the prospects of an independent Scotland remaining in the EU?
Hudghton: Mr Barroso’s bizarre remarks comparing Scotland to Kosovo have been rejected by a Vice President of the Commission, and his view about Scotland in Europe criticised by a former European Court Judge, by a former Director General of the European Commission, and by international political and academic figures. The truth is it is in nobody’s interest to create the kind of disruption to the lives of EU citizens and activities of EU businesses in Scotland that would be caused by an independent Scotland being outside of the EU, and there is no sensible reason to believe that this would happen.
BL: What happens if Scotland cannot remain in the EU automatically? Would you apply for membership?
Hudghton: The Scottish Government has put forward a sensible proposal to negotiate an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU between a Yes vote in 2014 and becoming independent in 2016 so that there is no disruption to the citizens and companies of other EU states living and working in Scotland or to the Scottish businesses trading across the continent. That continuity is in everyone’s interest which is why I am confident it is what will happen.
BL: If Scotland leaves the UK and the UK leaves the EU which currency will Scotland use?
Hudghton: The rest of the UK is Scotland’s biggest trading partner and the advantages to both an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK of a shared currency means that Scotland will use the pound.
BL: How do you see Scotland’s relationship with the EU and UK being in ten years time?
Hudghton: An independent Scotland will be a close friend and partner to the rest of the UK and an active part of the EU. We will cooperate closely with the rest of the UK where it is in our interests to do so, but gain the ability to speak with our own voice on issues where our interests diverge.
BL: What is the best thing about Scotland’s membership of the European Union and what is the worst?
Hudghton: The best thing about Scotland’s membership of the EU is the positive impact on Scotland economy that comes with access to the single market and investment in creating jobs. The worst is Scotland being prevented from speaking with our own voice in Europe and instead having to rely upon a Westminster Government whose priorities frequently do not match Scotland’s.
BL: In the 2008 financial crisis Scotland was able to bail out its banks as it was part of the UK. How would an independent Scotland that remained an EU member deal with a similar scenario?
Hudghton: The most important thing for any Government is to ensure that the kind of bailouts we saw in 2008 are never needed again and improvements are underway in the UK, EU and globally to make that a reality. However, an independent Scotland would guarantee the investments of depositors in line with EU requirements and the Bank of England will continue to act as the lender of last resort to the entire shared Sterling area.
BL: Scottish Independence would probably guarantee permanent Conservative government for the rest of the UK. Are you worried about Scotland being more highly taxed than its nearest neighbour? Would this cause problems?
Hudghton: Scottish MPs have only made a difference to the outcome of elections to Westminster in two elections in the 65 years prior to 2010, so the idea that there would be permanent Conservative government in the rest of the UK is a myth. The truth is that England gets the Governments it votes for, but frequently Scotland – with just one Conservative MP – does not. A Yes vote will ensure that both Scotland and the rest of the UK always get the Governments people vote for.