Is Tavish Scott trapped in a Dark Room?

TrappedIt would appear so, judging by his recent incoherent utterances on the subject of Scottish independence. The debate last month in the parliament was a case in point. Mr Scott regaled us with a series of rather wild assertions. One cannot even dignify them as arguments, as there does not appear to have been any rational thought behind these claims. In an effort to get some clarification about his comments I sent him an email way back on 20th September and after no reply, resent the email on 3rd October. This time I sent it to his constituency address as well as his parliamentary address. Still no reply of any kind. Perhaps he is trapped in a dark room somewhere!

Below is the substance of my email to Mr Scott. During the parliamentary debate he started with this gem, “In every area of policy, independence is a walk in the dark. It is opening a door into a pitch black room and trying to find the door on the other side. We may never come out.”

I am somewhat bewildered as to how anyone could possibly make this assertion. I am even more bewildered that Mr Scott, a member of a party that likes to proclaim its internationalist credentials could make that assertion. Such an assertion could only make sense if Scotland was to be the first country in the world to be contemplating independence. Yet as Mr Scott must certainly know, dozens of countries in Europe alone have become newly independent in the last couple of decades. Seven of these newly independent countries are now full members of the European Union. To wit: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Slovenia. With the exception of the Czech Republic, all these states are smaller than Scotland.

I am not sure if any of these seven countries started their new independence with a walk in the dark, but they have all successfully made the transition to independence. In most of these cases they have done so smoothly and with no apparent difficulties. At least none that were unsurmountable. They have all managed to secure full international recognition, including by the UK. They have all successfully set up the institutions of independence – establishing embassies, forming their own defence forces, setting up their own taxation systems etc, etc.

So my first question to Mr Scott was, given the proven and successful experience of other newly independent countries, why did he claim that independence for Scotland, and it would seem, only for Scotland, would be a walk in the dark? What evidence did he have that led him to claim that Scotland would not be able to make as smooth a transition to independence as the seven aforementioned countries? I mentioned evidence as I assumed that he would not be so dishonourable as to make an unfounded claim.

In his speech he went on to talk about international events, where he claimed that, “the UK’s collective strength is immensely more powerful than the individual voice.” He then went on to make three specific claims. The first related to the United Nations. He stated, “I do not understand why any Scot would actively seek to lose a place on the United Nations Security Council.” Once again I am rather bewildered by this assertion. I was completely unaware that Scotland had a place on the UN Security Council. The UK does. As far as I am aware there is no mechanism in place for the UK Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary to seek the approval of the Scottish government before casting the UK’s vote. The decisions on how to vote in the UN are taken solely by the UK government. Which is responsible to the UK parliament. In which there are only 59 members from Scotland, out of 650. So I asked if he could explain to me how in these circumstances he can justify his claim that Scotland has a place on the UN Security Council?

Mr Scott’s second assertion on this issue related to the European Union’s Council of Ministers. He claimed that through our membership of the UK we somehow carry the most votes possible in these Council meetings. This I find most strange, for two reasons. The first is that on areas where there is a divergence of policy between the Scottish government and the UK government, the Scottish position is simply not heard in the European Council meetings. So there are in some cases 0 votes for the Scottish position. On the other hand where the Scottish and the UK position is the same, independence would increase the votes available in Council meetings. This is because the UK would have the same number of votes as at present, while Scotland would have its own votes to add to the pot. Thus I contend that far from losing anything in the EU, independence would be a win win for both Scotland and the UK.

Mr Scott’s final point on international issues was that independence would mean, “to cut the record level of overseas aid to assist in Africa and countries around the world that are less fortunate than us.” This assertion again does not stand up to much scrutiny. If an independent Scotland continues to spend its current share of the UK’s overseas aid and the UK simply maintained its share, then the total amount spent on overseas aid would remain the same.  I was therefore at a loss as to how independence in itself would mean a reduction in total overseas aid spending?  We do not know what will happen to overseas aid in the future.  An independent Scotland might well decide to spend more on overseas aid. That would be a matter for the Scottish electorate to decide. On the other hand the UK’s overseas aid budget might well be decreased in the years to come. It could do so, irrespective of the views of our 59 MPs at Westminster. Once again independence, and only independence, gives us the opportunity to ensure that our views are enacted.

If I ever get a reply from Mr Scott I will keep you posted. But, don’t hold your breath!

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