1 Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future

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Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
Scotland in Europe
Letter to the Scots Independent Newspaper by Dr James Wilkie


I have seldom read such a farrago of nonsense as Tony Giugliano’s article in the February SI on the alleged disadvantages of membership of the EFTA side of the European Economic Area.  He simply repeats a catalogue of hoary old mythology that has been repeated far too often from hearsay alone.  He makes no reference to any sources, above all the Agreement on the European Economic Area that came into force on 1 January 1994.

He alleges that the EFTA states have to implement EU regulations and directives with no say in their drafting. Apart from the reality that no democratic government either would or could put itself into such an untenable position, the suggestion is utter nonsense. Under the EEA Agreement, especially Articles 99 to 101, the EFTA members have exactly the same rights as the EU side of the EEA, as the following extracts show (since the Agreement predates the European Union, read EU for EC):

Article 99: 1. As soon as new legislation is being drawn up by the EC Commission in a field which is governed by this Agreement, the EC Commission shall informally seek advice from experts of the EFTA States in the same way as it seeks advice from experts of the EC Member States for the elaboration of its proposals.

Article 100: The EC Commission shall ensure experts of the EFTA States as wide a participation as possible … in the preparatory stage of draft measures … In this regard, when drawing up draft measures the EC Commission shall refer to experts of the EFTA States on the same basis as it refers to experts of the EC Member States.  …the EC Commission shall transmit to the …Council the views of the experts of the EFTA states.

That disposes once and for all of the mythology that the EFTA states have no say in the formulation of EU legislation, but there is more to it than that. All the EFTA members of the EEA are represented individually on its governing bodies, including the EEA Joint Committee, EEA Council, EEA Court of Justice, etc., but its EU members are represented collectively by the EU Commission. 

The same applies to the all-important "top table" of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where the EFTA members retain their individual voices, whereas the EU members have only one voice - that of the EU Commission.  A seat at the "top table"?  What happens when a collective EU motion to the WTO represents the interests of France and Germany, but runs diametrically counter to the interests of Scotland?

With the voting power of a nation of 5 millions within a union of 500 millions, Scotland as an EU member would be in a position ten times worse than the one we are presently with good reason trying to escape.

The EEA financial commitments are laid down in Articles 115 to 117 of the EEA Agreement, and are elaborated in protocols 38a, b and c.  These contributions are specifically for the reduction of economic and social disparities between the EEA member states – a kind of development aid.  They are NOT contributions to the general EU funds, as Mr. Giuliani alleges.  Even the notoriously tight-fisted Swiss voters agreed by a substantial referendum majority to pay them, for the privilege of staying out of the European Union.

The SDA has calculated, on the basis of the Swiss and Norwegian payments, that Scotland’s contribution to the solidarity funds for weaker EEA member states would be of the order of £200 million annually.  That contrasts with Scotland’s present payments to the EU, which in 2010 amounted to £845 million and is steadily climbing due to the meltdown of the Euro currency system.  As an EU member state, Scotland’s payment would certainly be considerably higher.  Only a tiny fraction of our payments comes back to us as grants.  Added to this is the loss of wealth creation capacity due to the EU Common Fisheries policy, which is presently approaching £2,000 million every year.  The Common Agriculture Policy has been a similar financial and social disaster for Scotland of almost the same magnitude.

An equally important reason for switching to the EFTA side of the EEA would be the reduction by three quarters of the volume of EU legislation that would have to be processed and applied in Scotland.  This is based on information coming from an authoritative source in Norway.  The diplomatic and administrative time and expense involved in coping with this flood of legislation is a serious economic factor that is proving a considerable burden for smaller EU member states like Slovenia and others. 

Norway and Switzerland both implement EU regulations and directives that they are not obliged to observe, but they do so voluntarily when this is seen to be convenient or to have advantages for them.  The point is that they have the choice, whereas if they were EU members they would have no option but to fall in line, even if the legislation concerned was not in their interests.

There is nothing to prevent Scotland in the EFTA side of the EEA from trading with all 50 European states, including the half of Europe that is not in the EU.  Furthermore, all the Four Freedoms of the EEA Internal Market are available to its EFTA members.  As I know from many years of commuting between Scotland and Central Europe, my citizenship rights, my freedom of travel, health care, pension rights and the rest are all guaranteed within the EEA, and not just the EU.

The EU is based to a considerable extent on fraudulent misrepresentation that would land the directors of a private sector organisation in court – e.g. a “European” Parliament that is only one of four European parliaments and represents only a portion of Europe.  The 56-member OSCE Parliamentary Assembly represents double the number of states.

Mr. Giuliani refers to a “European Court of Justice (ECJ)”.  No such institution exists, not even the name. The EU court is an internal tribunal that adjudicates only on EU-internal regulations, directives and other matters concerning only its 27 member states.  It has no European legal jurisdiction whatsoever, especially not over genuine European law emanating from the other major all-European institutions like the Council of Europe, the OSCE or the UNECE, which unlike the EU are all repositories of important international treaties.  We don’t need the Euro catastrophe to convince us that all is not well with the EU experiment.  What we have to ensure is that Scotland is not sucked into this disaster waiting to happen.

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