Both Salmond and Sturgeon are EU fanatics. Why aren’t Unionists pulling them up on it?
As Alex Salmond returns to the political fray with his own custom-made Alba Party, inevitable comparisons have been drawn between his latest political enterprise and my decision in 2019 to launch the Brexit Party. I like to think I have little in common with Mr Salmond personally. But there are more fundamental differences between us, too. The fact is that from the moment the UK Independence Party was launched in 1993, my crusade was for our nation to be sovereign once again. What got me out of bed every morning was the desire to help make Britain truly free. Salmond, and his successor as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, have a very different vision for what they misleadingly call an “independent” Scotland.
Salmond started his campaign for independence in Scotland years before UKIP existed. He and Sturgeon state all the time that self-rule is their goal. Yet the crucial distinction between the political struggle in which I was involved to unshackle Britain from the EU and the movements run by Salmond and Sturgeon is that neither of them actually wants to achieve Scottish self-determination. Both of them are EU fanatics and their primary objective is for Scotland to join that bloc. Remarkably, neither of them has ever been properly challenged about this.
To be both an independent state and a member of the EU is incompatible on many levels. For this reason it is obvious that a Sturgeon or Salmond-led independent Scottish government would have to hand over to Brussels control of vast swathes of Scotland’s public and economic structures. Yet entering into a submissive relationship of this nature would mean that Scotland had no right to call itself a truly independent country at all.
All of this presupposes that Scotland’s application to join the EU would even be accepted following any break with the UK, of course. And there is no doubt that Brussels bureaucrats would be wary. Firstly, they would be concerned about the dire state of Scotland’s public finances. Second, they would also be worried that bringing the Scots on board and what that would mean for the Catalonian independence movement. Even if we were not living in topsy-turvy economic times, I cannot imagine Brussels being able to give Edinburgh any of the guarantees needed for its “independence”.
I believe that all of this offers Boris Johnson’s government its best chance to save the Union. In the last weeks of the 2014 referendum campaign on Scottish separation, Salmond only really started getting into trouble when it was pointed out publicly that if an independent Scotland were to join the EU, it would have to make a treaty commitment to join the Euro. This was denied. The SNP claimed it could keep Sterling without being formally tied to the Bank of England. Yet even if this were true, it hardly sounds like independence either. And we haven’t considered how the SNP proposes to plug the enormous gaps in funding currently supplied by Westminster that would be lost if Scotland were to go its own way.
Ultimately, a genuine Scottish nationalist would not want to be part of the UK or the EU. This is an intellectually honest position. What is – in a funny way – heartening is that many SNP voters hold it.
Indeed, a 2016 report by the National Centre for Social Research[NatCen] suggests over a third of SNP supporters voted for Brexit.
If Sturgeon’s and Salmond’s slippery use of the word “independence” can be cast into doubt, and if the splits within the various nationalist parties can be exposed and exploited, the Union will remain intact. So why is no one following this line yet? For the simple reason that in the Edinburgh political and media bubble that has grown up around the Scottish Parliament, support for EU membership has been almost universal. When, in 2013, I was attacked by a mob in an Edinburgh street for daring to question the use of the word independence, there was no one there to defend me.
The Scottish Conservative Party is part of the problem. It is certainly not the solution. Just as the SNP’s claim to want “independence” is fraudulent, so the Scottish Tories’ assertion that it is a politically conservative party is barely credible. It was solidly on the side of Remain in 2016, and to a large degree I believe that many of its politicians still feel that way. Yes, its former leader, Ruth Davidson, had personal appeal. As a Remainer, however, she could never attack the SNP effectively over its bogus claims for independence because she shared its aim of wanting to be in the EU.
The goal is wide open now. Nicola Sturgeon would have wanted Scotland to be part of the EU’s vaccine plan. Had that happened, thousands more Scottish lives would have been lost to covid. As the benefits of Brexit become clearer to every Briton, it is time for the Unionists to go on the attack. Whatever Sturgeon and Salmond are proposing for Scotland, it is not independence.