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Column 1002"Scotland independent in Europe" is not a simple slogan but an exercise in expediency. I agree with the Secretary of State to the extent that I believe that separatism has now been recognised as a desperate problem for a separatist party. That was frankly set out in August 1988 in the "No Turning Back" pamphlet written by the hon. Member for Govan. I do not want to bother the House with further quotations so I will say merely that it was in an extended passage entitled :
"A sharp reminder about separatism."
It was clear from what the hon. Gentleman said that he felt that the SNP would not be able to remove people's doubts about separatism, about the self-interest it represents and about the destruction and dislocation that would come with it unless the SNP could find some way to persuade people that the party was an animal that had changed to a wholly different position.
What made the idea of Scotland being independent in Europe attractive was not the merits of the argument, but the fact that it could be camouflage and used for electoral advantage and to get over what the hon. Member for Govan clearly recognised were the major intellectual and political disadvantages of being seen as a separatist party. That is not the right basis on which a major shift in policy should be taken.
I do not know what the practical problems or possibilities of Scotland negotiating its entry would be if the people of Scotland decided that they wished to follow the advice of the SNP and, frankly, I shall not spend a great deal of time on the matter. I am glad that today we have not had the usual obscure arguments about the Greenland precedent and that we have not had to watch the hon. Member for Govan and his hon. Friends dancing on the head of a pin--a rather inelegant exercise. We heard about an eminent authority--indeed, the greatest living authority in the world. It came as a considerable relief to Labour Members that that person turned out not to be the hon. Member for Govan. There is normally an arrogant certainty about his views which suggests that he has at least convinced his friends and colleagues that he falls into that category.
Whether Scotland gets into the EC or not, it is obviously important that Scotland remains within the market which is the United Kingdom, whether that market is part of the European Community or not. Even the substantial number of SNP supporters who wish to be independent, but outside the EC, would agree that we have to have those arrangements. The reason is the dislocation and disruption to which I have referred. This week, there has been a great deal of concern about Wang and about the branch factory phenonemon. I believe that there would be a genuine problem even within the EC if we were an independent country which had deliberately distanced itself economically and politically from the rest of the United Kingdom, which could be a positive action of dissociation.
Presumably there would be a danger, for example, that any English company with factories in Scotland might see those factories as the first likely victims in the case of recession. We must also consider the dismemberment of social services and public utilities. What would happen to families in different parts of the United Kingdom who would suddenly be faced with a choice between competing nationalities? Although the pace of European integration may proceed, that would be the position for a long time.
Column 1003What trust can we put in a budget that depends on optimistic assumptions about oil revenues? If oil revenues are a key factor, we are entitled to ask what would happen if they went. The budget does not add up and assumes cuts in housing, local government and education. If one is launching an independent, separate state, one does not do so on special factors that will have only a limited life. One does not do so on a prospectus of 30 or 40 years.
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan referred to Professor Malcolm Slesser, who is a well-known member of the Scottish Nationalists.
"In fact, a financial forecast of what Scotland would be like as an independent country is about as meaningless as one of Chancellor Lawson's pieces of star-gazing."
That is a pretty harsh judgment on the exercise in which the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan has been engaged for the past 12 months, but it is perhaps a good dose of reality when looking at that piece of make-believe.
Mr. Salmond : The hon. Gentleman and I have debated this subject before, not least on a "Left, Right and Centre" programme two months ago. The hon. Gentleman stumped off after the programme saying that it would never happen again. I do not know what would never happen again. I do not know whether he meant he would never discuss again the economics of an independent Scotland or would not appear on "Left, Right and Centre" to do so. On that programme, the hon. Gentleman failed wholly to discredit the view that there would be substantial economic opportunities for an independent Scotland. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will move on to tell us what areas of economic policy his new concept of independence within the United Kingdom would provide. Would it, for example, provide any control over monetary policy in Scotland?
Mr. Dewar : That was not exactly a ringing defence of the hon. Gentleman's budget and its problems. It was more a case of someone in a tight corner trying to counter-attack. All I can say to the hon. Gentleman- -and I hope that he is not disappointed by this--is that I cannot remember the context of that conversation, but I must also say that I do not normally remember conversations with him.
It is intellectually bizarre to find a group of politicians who argue for Socialism in one country, as some members of the SNP have done honourably for some time, and who now embrace the Single European Act with an enthusiasm that makes Lord Cockfield look like a foot-dragger. One cannot rely on Scotland as a nation state with a fast-fading veto for protection in the European Community. One certainly cannot rely on Scotland being able to hold up the pace of change by using a veto in terms of the Luxembourg compromise. If that is the basis on which the SNP is arguing its case, it is out of touch with the times, and it is no more than a bad joke.
In its policy document in June 1989, the SNP produced what it described as the way in which one measures a nation's independence. It said that it is measured
"by whether it controls its own economy through legislation and a range of economic powers."
Column 1004It said that the chief of the essential tests of independence were :
"monetary and fiscal policy ; exchange rate policy ; overall public expenditure ; trade policy".
I do not agree because I think that that is too simplistic an approach, but if that is the test, it seems that we are in the business of what the report itself in the heading to that chapter called "bogus independence" in the light of what is happening in Madrid and in the European Community at present. It is also not sensible in terms of the tests that the SNP itself has set, let alone by the tests that others may have set.
I am genuinely surprised--and I say this with respect--to hear the hon. Member for Govan apparently arguing that of course he wants independence in Europe, as long as the European Parliament does not have any power, control or legislative authority over Scotland or any other part of the member state. I will, of course, read the Hansard report of his comments. That view is wholly incompatible with his own pamphlet a few months ago. He dismissed the pamphlet as a personal point of view, so if his comments today are the official policy of the SNP, which I presume they are, they are an extraordinary mockery of many of the points that the SNP has been arguing in recent debates and of its whole European stance.
Mr. Dewar : I will not give way. I want to bother the House with one more important quotation, in which the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) may be interested. It is from an authority that the Secretary of State also used, which is a respectable authority in nationalist terms. Mrs. Isobel Lindsay spoke at the Inverness conference of the SNP against the "Scotland independent in Europe" motion. She said that the resolution was dishonest because it implied that the single European market would have devastating effects under the status quo, but not for an independent Scotland. The conference report states :
" This is a nonsense,' she insisted".
That is the problem that the SNP faces. Isobel Lindsay has been my unwilling ally in this debate, but nevertheless she is an honest witness and records the matter fairly.
Mr. Sillars : Is the hon. Gentleman going to deal with another area of enormous interest to Isobel Lindsay, who has been as consistent on this issue as on the European issue, and consider that part of our motion dealing with the contradiction of the Labour party in Scotland saying "No Trident" when the hon. Gentleman is imposing Trident on Scotland because his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the national executive have said that Trident will come to Scotland?
Column 1005of this argument. However, I shall be delighted to discuss it on other occasions and I do not doubt that I shall have the opportunity.
Experience in Europe proves that one must be in the big league if one is to survive effectively. If I went around the 11 European Community countries-- apart from Denmark--and asked, "Who is representing Denmark in Madrid?", I expect that the answer would be many blank expressions. Perhaps that is a cheap way of making the point, but it is an effective way. We must recognise that small countries do not have much clout or leverage.
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan was being dishonest when he suggested that the recent MORI poll showed 35 per cent. support for the SNP's position, because on the issue of independence in Europe there was just 22 per cent. support--less than the Conservative party polled at the last general election. I should have thought that nothing could be more telling about the SNP's position. The Scottish National party will not win this argument because argument and information are the enemies of its case. It is asking the Scots to grasp at the appearance and trappings of power, but to surrender the reality of influence.
Mr. Hind rose--
Mr. Hind rose--
Mr. Dewar : Opposition Members do not join the Government in defending the status quo. A great deal is happening in Europe at the moment to which we in Scotland could relate effectively. Alliances are being built and contacts made. New power structures are beginning to emerge within the EEC. If one talks to the West Germans and to the men who are in the La"nder, to the Basques and to the Catalans, one realises that their presence is now being felt and that they are now beginning to build their own methods of working together and in partnership with national Governments to influence events. If we in Scotland are to do that, our system must be reformed and we must be given the opportunity.
As is well known, the next Labour Government will establish a Scottish Parliament, which I hope will take advantage of those opportunities. The Scottish National party belittles that and calls it "the Bavarian solution". But having looked at the Bavarian economy and experience, I can only say that I should not mind seeing it repeated in Scotland in terms of employment and economic opportunity. The Scottish National party belittles that, but they would, wouldn't they? We should talk to those who are setting the pace in Europe. We should recognise the markedly greater powers --greater than the La"nder and greater than those of the regions of Spain-- that a Scottish Parliament would have within the framework of the United Kingdom. When I make such points, I am accused of trying to have the best of both worlds, but why should we not have the best, if it is available? There is nothing wrong with that.
Column 1006Scotland should have the strength of being in full partnership with the United Kingdom. It should have the strength of proper independence within the framework of the United Kingdom. It should have the strength of being able to work with the rest of the United Kingdom within Europe, but it should also have the flexibility and the potential of a developing role, directly affecting European policy.
Our reforms and policies would give Scotland all that. They are right on the merits of the argument. I believe that they have the support of most Scots. We are determined to deliver and we shall do so at an early date.
Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood) : The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) made a predictable speech, except in one regard. We shall have to check in Hansard and read precisely what he said, but I understood him to say that his party supported the Irish nation's right of self- determination. If he said that, I must advise him that that is precisely the policy of Sinn Fein and that it is something that we shall have to consider further.
I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) --
Mr. Ron Brown rose --
At the end of his speech the hon. Member for Garscadden referred briefly to the concept of independence in the United Kingdom, but he did not explain it. It was a ringing slogan, but his speech did not address its inherent contradictions in any way. He propounded the need for some kind of what he referred to as a "Parliament", although his amendment refers to a "Parliament or Assembly". It is clear that his party cannot decide even on the name of that great body. During the Glasgow, Central by-election a grand meeting of all the candidates was called by the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly. It was attended by all the parties, except for the Scottish National party, which presumably was, not unnaturally, reluctant to subject its policy to sustained and public scrutiny. Then, as now, the proponents yet again disagreed on all the fundamentals.
Mr. Hind rose--
Mr. Stewart : I shall give way later to my hon. Friend. All those attending disagreed on the powers, on the taxation system and on the voting system for such a body. At the end of the proceedings, there was the usual Laurel and Hardy act, featuring two of the leading, self-appointed, non- elected great men of the constitutional convention movement, Canon Kenyon Wright and Mr. Bob McCreadie, the candidate of the Scottish Social and Liberal Democratic party, who subsequently became one of the most spectacularly non-elected candidates of recent British political history. When there was a vote--
Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde) rose--
At the end of the proceedings the vote was in favour of the position of the Scottish National party--although the
Column 1007party was not there. At that point, Mr. McCreadie stormed off the platform, abusing Canon Kenyon Wright, the chairman of the meeting. Indeed, Mr. McCreadie almost went as far as demanding that the canon be fired-- [Laughter.] Yes, we are the party of the awfully good bad puns. That is yet another example of the more that one goes to the root of the slogans that we hear from the Labour party and from those who advocate an assembly, a parliament or whatever it should be called, the more the disagreements come through--
Mr. Graham rose--
Mr. Hind : I am obliged to my hon. Friend, who will no doubt be aware that Conservative Members who believe in the United Kingdom and who feel that Scotland has an important part to play in it might consider the Act of Union in terms of a Scottish Parliament and question why an hon. Member such as myself, representing an English constituency, should have over 85,000 constituents, when many constituencies in Scotland are much smaller. I refer especially to the Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale constituency, which has just over 38,500 constituents. Will the Labour party's policy include trading some of the seats in this Parliament for some in the Scottish Parliament so that the United Kingdom as a whole could be more equally represented in this House?
Mr. Stewart : My hon. Friend has made a valid point. I hope that the Labour party will answer that question. Of course, Opposition Members will not endeavour to answer the more fundamental questions. I am not referring simply to those about numbers, but also the West Lothian question, which is wholly unanswerable.
Both my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Garscadden gave the House some interesting quotations--
Mr. Graham rose --
Mr. Graham : The hon. Gentleman referred earlier to the Constitutional Convention. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the people of Scotland would prefer to see the Scottish National party and the Conservative party and their representatives playing a meaningful role in the Constitutional Convention. However, it is well known throughout Scotland that Scottish National party councillors have no hesitation in entering into deals and agreements with Conservative members to run the council. As the hon. Gentleman knows, on Renfrew district council the Scottish National party formed a coalition with the Conservative party. The same happened in Glasgow district council. In nearly every authority in which the Scottish National party has councillors, those councillors have no hesitation in doing deals with the Conservatives so that they can run the council and implement near-Conservative proposals. I find it strange for a Conservative Member not to agree at least to work in the Constitutional Convention along with SNPs, Liberals and everyone else. We would welcome it.
Column 1008of the policy of the Scottish National party. The hon. Member for Garscadden has quoted rightly and properly from Dr. Flora Isles on the great Tayside controversy. No doubt, when winding up, the Scottish National party representative will wish to refute the allegation that it has put forward different policies in different parts of the country. All four hon. Members representing the SNP in the House will wish to proclaim from the rooftops how much they agree with Mr. Alex Neill, its candidate in the by-election, that it is the party of the Red Clydesiders, and that the mantle of Clydeside Socialist, Left-wing philosophy correctly belongs to the Scottish National party. Let that ring out around the hedgerows of Perthshire, Angus and Banff and Buchan.
Mr. Bill Walker : Does my hon. Friend agree that probably the SNP did so badly in Angus and Perthshire in the recent elections because the people did not believe that it was the inheritor of Red Clydesiders?
Mr. Stewart : I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. The advantage of the Conservative party, or for that matter the Labour party, is that we can pursue our policies and we do not have to remember which constituency we are in at the time. We have a consistent philosophy.
Mr. Brown : It is interesting to hear the chit-chat between the nationalists and the Conservatives, bearing in mind that it is almost like when auld freens fa' oot--as they say in Scotland. We should remember that in 1979 the nationalists were supporting the Tories. [Interruption.] Perhaps they have learnt something, but they have not learnt enough about Europe. Europe is much larger than the area of the EEC. If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) wants independence in Europe, he will not get it in Strasbourg, but he will get it within that part of the world that can respond to Socialist policies.
I can say also to the Labour party, which is important to me, that if we back-track on the basic policies in Scotland, particularly on the poll tax, and kid people on
Mr. Stewart : The question of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) would be better directed to the representatives of the Scottish National party than to me. In the Glasgow, Central by-election, day after day the Scottish National party reassured the people that it was a Socialist party and the party that had inherited the mantle of the Red Clydesiders. I hope that that makes the hon. Gentleman a little happier.
The Scottish National party has been, first, split on the issue of Europe and, secondly, has taken its current position for electoral expediency. There have been quotations from Isobel Lindsay. I shall quote another distinguished SNP figure, a former senior vice-chairman of the SNP, who said on 17 September 1988 in The Scotsman : "1992 is about the free market economy. To those of you who think of yourselves as Socialists, have you given any thought to what you are being asked to give up?"
Column 1009The truth is that it has adopted its slogan of independence in Europe purely because, as the hon. Member for Govan said in one of his books or pamphlets,
"the charge of separation disappears."
It has been put forward solely for electoral expediency. It raises, as a policy, two key questions : is it deliverable, and is it desirable? The argument put forward by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan that it is deliverable rests on two assertions. The first assertion is correct. He is correct in saying that, if the Scottish National party gained a majority of Scottish seats, in practice it would have the right to withdraw and to negotiate to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom. Of course, Parliament can repeal the Act of Union at any time, but, in practice, if that happened, Parliament would say that the people of Scotland had elected a majority of representatives of the party whose objective, purpose and the reason for its very existence was to break up the Union. I believe that that is precisely what would happen.
I do not believe that the second assertion on deliverability is correct. It is no good quoting lawyers, however expert. The question is what the Council of Ministers would do. What would happen is that there would be the continuing member--the successor state to the United Kingdom--and Scotland would have an application on the table. It has been pointed out that there is a freeze on applications until 1993. I shall quote from the 1989 report of an independent Scottish institute, the Fraser of Allander Institute, which is not normally especially favourable to the Conservative cause. It said : "the negotiations will take several years and Scotland would be lucky to join the European Community this century."
That is the reality.
The second question is : is it desirable? My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has spelt out the case against that very clearly this afternoon. My position has always been clear. Given the choice between the devil of a unilateral Scottish Assembly and the deep blue sea of an independent Scotland, I would give unequivocal support to an independent Scotland. A unilateral Assembly would lead to decades of constitutional chaos and then the break-up of the United Kingdom.
Scotland faces in practice a three-way choice at the next election. The choice is between the Conservative and Unionist party, which is for private enterprise and a stable economy ; the Labour party, putting forward whatever brand of yuppie Socialism is then in current vogue and a constitutional hotch-potch which would lead to chaos ; and the Scottish National party. If people believe in a Socialist Scotland outside the United Kingdom--I repeat, with an uncertain relationship with the European Community--of course they should vote for it, but not otherwise.
Mr. Stewart : John Maclean will not be an elector at the next general election. It will be no good people saying afterwards, "We did not mean it ; it was just a wee protest about the Health Service, " or complaining because the road was up outside their house. If people vote for the Scottish National party and for this slogan in sufficient numbers, the Act of Union will be broken. Let no one be unclear about that. I hope and believe that it will not happen. We should steadily and confidently counter the propaganda against the Union by those who argue that the Union does not work to the benefit of Scotland.
At the beginning of this Parliament the Labour party adopted the language and gestures of nationalism. I believe that it has initiated a partial retreat from that stance as it has begun to realise the dangers of that policy. Let us hope that that retreat into common sense continues.
My intervention in the Secretary of State's speech was important as it is worth reminding the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) that he visited the Rolls-Royce factory with Margo MacDonald and the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor). My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) was right to say that we are not just talking about Europe, but the European Economic Community. The hon. Member for Govan once argued that the EEC is undemocratic and that Members of the European Parliament do not have any power and that that power rests with the Commissioners and the Council of Ministers. Why is it then that the only time we heard about independence within Europe from that hon. Gentleman was during the campaign in Glasgow, Govan?
Mr. Sillars rose --
Why did the SNP not use the slogan "Independence within the European Community" rather than "Independence within Europe" given that the hon. Member for Govan argued that we were not talking about Europe, but the Community? The SNP has been dishonest. There are aspects of the EEC that I do not like, but I firmly believe that if we are part of Europe, Scotland is stronger as part of the United Kingdom than as a separate state.
The SNP is also dishonest because its policy is not just about independence, but is anti-English. Everything it does and everything it stands for is directed by a hatred of the English. Why should we seek to break away from a country with which we have a common border and which is part of a small island? The SNP wants to fragment the United Kingdom, but Scotland would not have a chance as a single entity within the EEC. It would be out-voted by the more powerful nations and it would mean that England and Wales would become weaker.
The SNP reminds me of the party with which it claims to have links, the party of Quebec in Canada. The provinces of Canda are autonomous, but the party of Quebec wants to separate that province from Canada. It believes that such separation would make the province stronger, but the real motive for that separation is its
Column 1011hatred for the people it describes as the "Anglophones". The party of Quebec is more interested in fining a tobacconist because he refused to put a French sign up on his door than in anything else.