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Letters / EU position somewhat confusing

Carpet-bombing of the local media by SNP Shetland is a sure sign an election is imminent.

In contrast to the effete stirrings of other parties their tenacity is admirable; alas, not so their veracity. The SNP’s position on EU membership and independence is, to be kind, somewhat confusing.

Official policy is full EU membership for Scotland. They vehemently oppose Brexit. “Scots are being dragged out of the EU, against their wishes”, they wail.

However, Scottish independence, the SNP’s Holy Grail, their raison d’etre, will guarantee that we leave the EU, with “no deal”. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso confirmed this to the House of Lords on 10 December 2012.

Denouncing Mr. Barroso’s judgment at the time as “pretty preposterous”, John Swinney claimed Article 48 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty provides a procedure for ensuring an independent Scotland can stay in the EU.

However, anyone reading Article 48 will quickly realise that changing EU Treaties is a convoluted process that could run for years, during which we would have to make many concessions.

Scotland is not a member state so cannot, itself, apply and the EU will not readily create a precedent of bypassing their entry rules, notably, on economic alignment, under which our economy would not pass muster.

Mr Barroso’s statement was subsequently reiterated, verbatim, to the Scottish Parliament, on 10 March 2014, by his deputy Viviane Reding.

It follows that warm words from individual EU politicians, designed to embolden the SNP to undermine Brexit, may safely be ignored.

In any case, whether we stay in or rejoin EU rules will apply:

Briefly, government budget deficits are limited to three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and national debt to 60 percent of GDP. Based on current figures, ours would be 5.5 percent (£9.5 billion per annum) and over 100 percent (assumption: share of UK debt, £185 billion), respectively. These would need to be roughly halved.

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Founder member Italy was recently forced to cut spending plans to limit its budget deficit to two percent of GDP. We shall have to cut our spending, too.

We would endure harsh austerity (£5-10 billion cuts from an annual budget of £70 billion) for many years, at the very time when extra spending for new, independence functions and to stimulate the economy, would be essential.

Assume, for argument that the SNP’s campaigns succeed, i.e. Britain remains in the EU and Scotland wins independence and consequently, leaves the EU:

There would be a hard border with rUK. EU tariffs would apply. Most of our exports (63 percent) are to the UK however negotiations on continuing free trade would be with Brussels, not Westminster.

Little wonder former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars recently declared he would be unable to vote for independence if it included EU membership.

Neither would most Scots support such a prospectus. So the policy must change before “Indyref2”.

Now, if Scotland and the UK both leave the EU, negotiations on continuing free trade would be with Westminster and it’s difficult to envisage any threat of tariffs, or other major impediments.

EU exports comprise a mere 15 percent of our total trade and immigration would be under Holyrood control, so there would be little economic threat from non-membership which, in any case, could be countered by joining Norway in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

That would provide access to the EU single market, the “four freedoms” and, crucially, we would retain control of our currency, fishing, agriculture and economic/trade arrangements.

However, EFTA membership is not the policy being peddled to voters. Nicola Sturgeon reiterated the SNP’s commitment to full EU membership on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, this morning.

So the SNP is insisting the UK remains in the EU when their own, defining policy, independence, guarantees Scotland will leave with “no deal” and probably, never rejoin.

That amounts to either gross incompetence or a duplicitous, hypocritical charade, adopted for some hitherto unstated, political purpose.

John Tulloch

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