by Rab Bruce’s Spider

My recent article about the conflation by the Tories of the two Unions of which Scotland is currently a member produced some interesting feedback. Most of this was very positive but Twitter user Smoo pointed out that I had omitted some areas where the EU imposes control over its member states. Now, even if he is correct, I’m not sure that this invalidates the argument I was trying to make, that Westminster controls Scotland far more completely than the EU controls its member states but Smoo certainly gave me a couple of things to think about and I thought it worth highlighting the issues because they aren’t problems I was aware of.

I did invite Smoo to write an article which I offered to publish but he claimed this would be a waste of time since the Yes movement is only interested in removing Tories and not in the wider issues. I must take issue with this because, although removing the Tories is a main objective of the Yes movement, it is not the primary one. For example, if Labour had won the last General Election, the UK would be slightly different from its current situation but that would not prevent the Yes movement wanting independence for Scotland. Our primary aim is to have Scotland governed by a Government of its own choice, not to have voters in England decide who will rule our country. The fact that England generally votes Tory is one reason why there is a growing gulf between the two countries but there is absolutely no reason why an independent Scotland could not elect its own Tory Government, no matter how unlikely that may seem at present. The issue is that, if such a Government were elected and then enacted policies the people of Scotland did not like, they would be able to vote them out at the next election. This choice is currently denied us.

However, as I mentioned, my discussion with Smoo did show up some interesting points, so let’s take a look at them.

In particular, he mentioned that the EU control what is known as the Trans European Transport Network and that things like, for example, HS2, are part of this imposed infrastructure development which aims to enable high speed rail all across Europe. According to Smoo, and a website he directed me to, the UK is not in charge of HS2 but is being compelled to construct it by the EU under the TETN project which means the UK must build and pay for HS2 even though the EU is directing the development. That article can be read at:

http://www.theeuroprobe.org/2015-088-hs2-controlled-by-eu-not-our-gov/

Now, a couple of things strike me as odd about this. The first is that, if the claims are correct, why did the Brexit politicians not mention this during the EURef campaign? I suppose one could argue that they were too lazy and stupid to do anything other than invent scare stories but I think that is being too harsh even on such an incompetent crowd of charlatans. If there was a genuine case of the EU imposing something on the UK and forcing the UK to pay for it, you’d have thought they’d have shouted it from the rooftops. But no. It wasn’t mentioned at all.

The second odd thing is that this alleged pan-European transport network isn’t coming as far as Scotland despite the fact that we are still in the EU at the moment. This suggests to me that the UK Government does have some control over HS2. Smoo argued that HS3 and HS4 would see the line extended and perhaps that is the intention but whether it is an intention driven by EU imperatives, I am not so sure.

The other comment I would make is that the website quoted is unashamedly anti-EU. There’s nothing wrong with that but the site does appear to harbour a few conspiracy theorists among its contributors.

I did some searching of my own and could not locate anything from the EU which supports the claims made in the first article. Indeed, the following suggests that, while TETN is a genuine project, the EU provides funding to assist the developments, that these are not restricted to high speed rail and that national Governments are consulted and involved in the projects.

http://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2014/july/eu-announces-funding-for-new-transport-infrastructure-projects--/

Of course, one would not expect the EU to openly flaunt the fact that it is overriding national Governments in matters of infrastructure development so, to be honest, I have ended up a bit better informed but not really near reaching a definitive conclusion on the scope of TETN. If anyone has any more definitive info, please do let me know. I don’t yet share Smoo’s belief in its power to override national Governments but I’m keeping an open mind until I can learn a bit more.

The other thing that bothered Smoo was the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon which is, according to his interpretation, intended to do away with national borders and create a European State with its own institutions such as a European Army.

To be fair, many people have raised concerns about the impact of the treaty of Lisbon. I’m no expert on EU constitutional matters but I’ve done a bit of reading over the past few days and can say that opinions seem divided on the intent and scope of the Lisbon Treaty.

The Treaty was apparently designed to reformulate the EU’s constitution which was viewed as out of date given the expansion of the organisation. There is no doubt that, from one perspective, it can be interpreted as being an attempt to move towards the creation of a European Super State. In particular, the intention to create an EU Foreign Minister was regarded as potentially stripping sovereignty from member states. This proposal was slightly watered down but the post of EU High Representative, which is effectively the same position with a fancy title, was created.

There is no doubt that there is a drive for greater integration within the EU and it may well be that the Treaty of Lisbon represents the latest step in a gradual “mission creep" sort of incorporation of member states into a Borg-like collective. However, I remain sceptical that the practical implications are anywhere near reaching that stage yet. The Lisbon Treaty certainly means that countries will not be able to block new laws which can be passed by majority rather than unanimous vote but that’s actually pretty normal in most democratic organisations anyway. Whether this constitutes a Super-State, is debatable.

There are a couple of reasons for my current scepticism. For example, can anyone name the current EU High Representative who is acting like a Foreign Minister and usurping the roles of member states’ national Foreign Ministers? I certainly couldn’t and I had to Google to learn that her name is Federica Mogherini. She’s certainly kept a low profile so far and doesn’t appear to have upstaged any national Foreign Minister despite being presented with the easy target of Boris Johnson who could be upstaged by just about anyone. For what it is worth, my own cynical view of many of the outcomes of the Treaty of Lisbon are that much of it was simply to create more jobs for the boys and girls who work within the system. That is reason enough for outrage since our money is paying for them but I’m not yet convinced it denotes a seizure of sovereignty.

But the main reason I don’t believe we will see the creation of a Super-State any time soon is that national interests will prove intractable. Europe, for better or worse, is comprised of many different nationalities, with people speaking many different languages and having diverse cultures. It is great that the EU has brought a period of peace and cooperation but I don’t yet see that any member State will voluntarily surrender all its sovereignty to some monster EU State. For one thing, national politicians will want to preserve their own roles and status. Even if they didn’t, the ordinary citizens of various European countries have been very vocal in their desire to remain independent within the framework of European cooperation. There is already evidence of tension in those countries which are suffering economic problems as a result of using the Euro and this is producing an anti-EU backlash in countries like Italy where there is a growing feeling that, while they are happy to remain in the EU, they would love to ditch the Euro. Given this growing hostility, I can’t believe citizens will readily agree to wholly renounce their national status to become citizens of a Greater Europe. In fact, we have seen that recent history suggests a greater willingness on the part of smaller nations to proclaim their independence – Scotland excepted – while being willing to cooperate with their neighbours as part of the EU.

Having said that, my investigation has at least prompted me to be more aware of any gradual power grab by the EU and it is certainly something I’ll be watching out for. I don’t think the situation is as bad as Smoo fears and I genuinely believe most nations will veer away from any formal integration which denies them self-government. Surrendering some elements of sovereignty to the EU to gain the benefits of trade, travel and cooperation is not the same as surrendering full sovereignty. There are no doubt some within the EU who would love to create a super-state but, equally, there are plenty who recognise that individual member states cannot be squeezed into a one size fits all box and that a federal approach is the best way to ensure a (broadly) mutually beneficial arrangement.

There is, though, one thing I do agree with Smoo on. He is generally pro-Indie and he dislikes the idea of elitism. I’m in broad agreement with that although I am realistic enough to know elitism cannot be eradicated. What we can do about it is narrow the gap between those at the top and the general public and ensure that our politicians know to whom they are answerable. Having wealth and status should not mean that one is treated any differently to anyone else. Everyone deserves basic respect and my hope is that an independent Scotland will move away from the elitist class structure which is so evident in the UK.

Finally, to return to my original point, if Smoo and I disagree on the detail of how an independent Scotland should be run and whether it should remain in the EU, that is fine. If we had full control over our country, we could vote for Parties which represented our own particular views. That, unlike the absurd situation Scotland is in just now, is proper democracy.