The Scottish LibDems like to proclaim their pro European credentials at just about every opportunity. They are widely regarded as the most pro EU party not just in Scotland but the whole of the UK. Now this is a position which I personally share. I too take a positive view of the EU, so this post is not a criticism of the LibDems’ pro EU position. Rather I want to express my surprise at how little contact the Scottish LibDems seem to have with their fellow Liberals in the EU.
I was prompted to write this after reading in the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia a short report on a visit by Sir Graham Watson, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – ALDE. The report is headlined, European Liberals do not see any problem with an independent Catalunya in the EU. The report then quotes Graham Watson as saying that the EU must be sufficiently strong and flexible to allow the creation of new states within its frontiers. The report in full can be found here.
Now such views are completely at odds with what the LibDems are saying in Scotland, where we are threatened with possible expulsion from the EU, or at best, years of uncertain negotiation. Certainly nothing that would suggest a positive welcome from the EU. Yet here we have the President of the Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament offering a warm welcome to Catalunya. Something seems to be amiss here.
In large part this may be due to the fact that the Scottish LibDems do not seem to be a member of the ALDE. I checked their website, where they include a list of all the member parties across Europe, both in the EU and outwith the EU. The Scottish LibDems do not appear in this list of members. The UK LibDems however is a member party. I found this rather surprising as many countries have two or more parties with membership of the ALDE. Of most relevance for the Scottish LibDems, there are two Spanish parties in the ALDE. Convergència Demmocràtica de Catalunya – CDC – is the Catalan Liberal party, while the Centro Democrático Liberal – CDL – campaigns in the rest of Spain. Both are members of ALDE. So there would appear to be no reason why the Scottish LibDems could not also become members of the ALDE.
Of course one reason for their absence from ALDE may be that the Scottish LibDems are not in fact an independent party in their own right. Perhaps they are just the Scottish wing of the UK party. Though they have their own leader in Scotland, Willie Rennie, they do not seem to have their own direct links with fellow Liberals in the rest of Europe. Perhaps if they did, they might be a bit more nuanced in their outbursts on Scottish independence. Clearly not all their fellow Liberals are opposed to this development.
In fact at least one fellow Liberal party is very much in favour of independence – for Catalunya. There it is a bit of a surprise to discover that the leadership for both a referendum and for a yes vote for independence comes from the Catalan Liberals – Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya – CDC. There are clearly different views on independence within the family of Liberal parties. With this in mind it would be interesting to know if anyone from the Scottish LibDems has met with CDC to discuss their different views on independence?
It is very odd that such a pro Europe party like the Scottish LibDems does not seem to have any direct links with other Liberal parties in Europe. I have written to Willie Rennie to ask him what is the Scottish LibDem position in relation to the ALDE. I have also written to ALDE to ask if that Alliance has at any time discussed the possibility of independence for Catalunya and for Scotland? It is clearly an issue of great importance and I would imagine that it will be discussed at various levels in Europe. It is just a pity that our LibDems in Scotland should be so out of step with the President of their party in Europe.