Working the Continent’s canapé circuit

Scotland gaining influence on the EU’s canapé circuit

Until the general election was called, a few posts could be seen on social media complaining about the SNP’s downgrading of independence as it marshalled its arguments against Brexit (a Brexit that will devastate the Scottish economy).

But what many probably don’t know or have failed to take on board, is that contrary to their beliefs that the Scottish Governement has been rowing backwards on independence, SNP leaders, according to Jamie Maxwell in an article in Politico, “have been aggressively courting their counterparts across Europe, laying the groundwork for the next time the nation holds an independence referendum”.

In the run-up to the 2014 indyref many European leaders were concerned by the prospect of Scottish independence. They didn’t see the need for it, worried about its consequences in other EU countries, and were therefore happy to comply when David Cameron, then Prime Minister, canvassed support in speaking out against it and against it being made easy for an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU.

However, the Leave result in the EU referendum and the SNP’s strong support of the EU and of rejoining the bloc as soon as possible after independence, caused some rethinking. This was undoubtedly helped by infighting within the Conservative Party, by Boris Johnson, the former inept Foreign Secretary, becoming Prime Minister and the rightward trajectory of the Tory government.

So, with more sympathy for Scotland in the EU corridors of power, Maxwell says SNP leaders set out “to convince EU leaders to lend their support, or at least withhold opposition, to such a referendum — and to smooth the way for Scotland to quickly become an EU member should voters decide to break with the U.K.”

As well as winning an award for her advocacy of Europe and her party’s stance against Brexit, our First Minister has had meetings with both Guy Verhofstadt and Michel Barnier. She and many of her ministers, including Michael Russell and Fiona Hyslop, have also racked up over eighty trips to European countries since January 2018, to promote Scotland and gain acceptance that Scotland with its internationalist history is a natural member of the EU. Eighty foreign trips, more or less one trip every week over a two year period for a First Minister and her ministerial team whose devolved government has no remit for foreign affairs.

The Westminster government has now refused to pay for such trips. That wouldn’t have gone unnoticed in the EU where politicians who were unconvinced previously are now much more aware of why Scotland wants and needs independence, not just for Scotland’s sake but also for that of the EU where Scotland’s strong stance on tackling the climate emergency is welcomed.

Referring to the Scottish Government strategy as the “canapé circuit”, Maxwell also cites the setting up of Innovation and Investment Hubs (which after independence will seemlessly morph into embassies) in Dublin, Brussels, Berlin, London and Paris, and its trips to Oslo, Copenhagen and Reykjavík to discuss security, intelligence sharing, and defense concerns with particicular reference to the strategically important North Atlantic and Arctic areas.

The article (Scotland’s long game: Pro-independence leaders aren’t just trying to win over voters — they’re courting EU leaders too) which can be read here, ends with a warning that there will be no obvious EU support for Scottish independence until a Yes vote is obtained, and that support will depend on the independence referendum’s legality.

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