Petition against the eradication of Scotland – 2
Alongside the petition to the European Parliament submitted by Equality Nation on 16th January 2020 was an open letter to the EU Parliament and EU Commission in support of our formal petition to the EU Parliament. This gives background information, the case for a democratic solution, and ideas on a possible route to regain our EU citizenship, as well as brief historical notes of relevance.
Open letter to the EU Parliament and EU Commission in support of our formal petition to the EU Parliament.
This open letter to the EU Parliament and Commission is from Equality Nation – a group of ordinary citizens of Scotland deeply concerned at the impending loss of our European citizenship. We are not politicians, or lawyers conversant in the laws of the EU. Our focus is on equality, social justice, climate change and for Scotland to become a member state of the European Union in its own right. We are not aligned to any political party. We run an online news site to help promote our objectives.
Our appeal to the European Parliament is that should Scotland choose to become an independent nation, and subsequently decide to join the EU, the application would be well received and indeed welcomed. There is no complex legal case to unravel but we earnestly request an answer that a future application from Scotland for EU membership would find an open door and a joint willingness to progress a positive common European future.
We recognise our use of the formal petition procedure may be considered unusual. Due to Brexit, our imminent departure and loss of EU citizenship means the petition procedure is our only way of making a direct appeal to the EU Parliament during the remaining days of our citizenship. We recognise that some of the more detailed points might best be addressed by the EU Commission. We are open to advice and guidance.
Scotland has a long history as a European nation. For Equality Nation supporters, European citizenship is not a token addition to who we are but a fundamental part of our identity, adding value to our citizenship of Scotland, regardless of where we were born. The freedom to travel, to trade and engage through the structures of the European Union are of enormous importance to us and we mourn the impending loss of the rights of citizenship, facing an uncertain future in a UK intent on changes to the fundamental legal rights and protections we at present enjoy in European and International law.
Just as we, EU citizens until 31st January 2020, value these freedoms, we also value the rights of other EU citizens to come to Scotland to work, study, make friends, marry, raise families, and enrich our cultural life. Although welcome and appreciated in Scotland, these EU citizens have been appallingly treated by the UK Government, and many still face a very uncertain future despite wishing to remain in Scotland.
Brexit, which Scotland did not vote for, and in the referendum for which EU nationals from the other 27 nations resident in Scotland were not allowed a vote or a say, is being imposed on us, stripping us, against our will, of these rights and protections. Brexit and the loss of many EU nationals will severely impoverish Scotland, culturally and economically, harm the Scottish economy and the Scottish way of life, as well as bringing about the drastic break-up of very many families whose members straddle the EU.
Clause 38 in the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill asserts that the UK parliament is sovereign. This is, as we understand it, a convention, with nothing in UK law to confirm it. (Carwyn Jones AM, former First Minister of Wales, speaking at the Welsh Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, 13th January 2020 – about one hour twenty one minutes in, near the end of the recording. Prior to the 1707 Union, the English Parliament was sovereign, but this was never the case with the Scottish Parliament. Sovereignty in Scotland lies with the people. Queen Elizabeth is queen of Scots, not of Scotland.
The UK Parliament is using Brexit and its preponderance of Members of Parliament at Westminster to ride roughshod over Scottish opinion and erase the ancient nation of Scotland which is supposedly, though not in practice, an equal partner in the United Kingdom. The EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill also strips significant powers from our devolved parliament in Edinburgh, a parliament whose establishment 74.3% of Scots voted for in September 1997.
The EU Parliament is required to ratify the UK’s EU Withdrawal Act. It will have to do so before 31st January 2020. Therefore the EU Parliament will be agreeing to strip people who are still EU citizens of many of their rights and protections. By voting to accept the Act Members of the European Parliament will also be implicit in the eradication of one of Europe’s ancient nations. We ask that MEPs think carefully about that for it is not a course of action a democratic EU Parliament should be associated with.
In the days remaining to us as European citizens we make this appeal to the European Parliament under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty (Article 227) on the functioning of the European Union. As we have submitted the formal petition during the final days of our citizenship, we ask that consideration of our petition should not end on 31st January 2020, should the shortness of time require an answer to be forthcoming at a later date.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2016/C 202.02) provides a range of rights we will shortly lose when the UK leaves on 31st January. We do not wish to misuse the right to petition, but it appears to be the only way we can make our voice heard and seek a simple statement of future possibility to counter the avalanche of assertion from UK politicians and media that Scotland would not be welcome or able to join the EU at a relatively early date.
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have their own means of communicating with the EU. As ordinary citizens we believe we should also have a means to engage with the EU Parliament and, using this, to communicate directly with our fellow EU citizens our wish to have our EU citizenship restored at an early date. Governance procedures and institutions are critical channels for dialogue and resolution but they owe their existence to the people they serve. As citizens of one of Europe’s ancient nations we have chosen to make a direct appeal in order to rise above the unhelpful political noise generated in the UK.
The case for a democratic solution
Our appeal is based on the following data and evidence of the wishes of the people of Scotland to remain in the EU,
- 62% in Scotland voted to remain in the 2016 EU referendum
- The Scottish Parliament argued that the UK should remain a member state
- The Scottish Government backed by the Scottish Parliament noted: “that there is already a range of asymmetric and differentiated arrangements within the EU and single market framework.” References: Scotland’s Place in Europe, 20 Dec 2016
- The Scottish Parliament is currently compliant with all EU law as an essential requirement of how it must operate and legislate
- Scotland is a democratic country wishing to respect the rights of all citizens, no matter where they were born
- Following a period of over 3 years when the representations of the Scottish Parliament were systemically ignored by the UK Government, the Scottish Government published Scotland’s Right to Choose; Putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s Hands 19 Dec 2019
- On 8th January 2020 the Scottish Parliament voted by 92 votes to 29 to refuse legislative consent for Westminster’s EU Withdrawal Bill. Boris Johnson will ignore this vote supported by 4 out of the 5 political parties in the Scottish Parliament. (SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens)
- In the referendum for a devolved Scottish Parliament in September 1997 Scotland voted 74.3% for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament and 63.5% for the parliament to have tax raising powers. Westminster now plans, without Scottish Parliament consent, to remove significant powers devolved in the 1998 Scotland Act.
- Attitudes to government and the Scottish Parliament, as shown in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2017, show that 61% trusted the Scottish Government to work in Scotland’s best interests with only 20% trusting the UK Government.
(74%) of people said that the Scottish Government should have most influence over the way Scotland is run.
Since the advent of devolution in 1999 levels of trust in the Scottish Government to work in Scotland’s best interests have been consistently higher than those in the UK Government.
A possible route to regain our EU citizenship
We ask the European Parliament and EU Commission to agree that Scotland should have the right to choose Independence by constitutional means to pursue its EU ambitions and the return of a shared citizenship with 27 European countries.
We further ask that subsequent to the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament choosing to pursue EU membership:
A. Early discussions with engagement to chart the way forward would take place as soon as the Scottish Parliament approved such engagement
B. These discussions could, if thought expedient by the Scottish Parliament, include an early application to EFTA whilst negotiations with the Westminster government on the terms of Scotland’s departure from the UK were still in progress.
Relevant precedents – the departure of Greenland from the EU and the arrangements for Northern Ireland as part of the agreement on UK withdrawal, both had devolved powers but were parts of a member unitary state.
C. That the EU consider giving Scotland ‘preliminary status’ as an Applicant State with all the access to dialogue that implies.
In relation to the above we ask you to take account of the following:
i. We note the European Union’s offer to fast track Iceland as the 29th member state in 2009. The EU saw Iceland as a valuable addition to the EU despite the Arctic nation having a 10% budget deficit following the 2009 financial crash.
ii. A former senior adviser to the European Commission, Dr Kirsty Hughes, advised MSPs (June 2016) that discussions had taken place about putting Scotland in a ‘transitional holding pen’ after Brexit to avoid “an absurd out and then in process”.
Scotland’s constitutional heritage
In Scottish constitutional law it is the people who are sovereign – not parliament, nor the monarch. We cite the Declaration of Arbroath as an early example of this principle. We have chosen two other historic documents as supporting evidence in our appeal (Appendix A) as these demonstrate Scotland’s long understanding of the importance of trade and peaceful collaboration with other European cities and nations.
The 1706 Treaty and 1707 Acts of Union were very unpopular with ordinary people in Scotland at the time. Negotiations only finally progressed when England backtracked and agreed Scotland would have trading access to English colonies. For over 300 years the parliamentary union has faced opposition. In recent years opposition has grown steadily due to the democratic deficit, impending loss of citizenship rights and the economic damage Brexit will inflict upon Scotland.
On 4 July 2018, the House of Commons officially endorsed the principles of Scotland’s Claim of Right (based on the Claim of Right Act passed by the Parliament of Scotland in April 1689 – one of the key documents of UK and Scottish constitutional law) agreeing that the people of Scotland are sovereign and that they have the right to determine the best form of government for Scotland’s needs.
It is vital we learn from the mistakes of the past and learn to speak up for democracy.
UK government decisions in recent years do not accord with Scotland’s values. To paraphrase the words of Martin Niemöller:
When they came for the benefits of the disabled – we spoke up for them
When they took away pensions rights of women – we campaigned for them to be restored
When they came for EU citizens with complex bureaucracy – we stood firm because we are also (for now) EU citizens
Finally a quote from Voltaire:
‘We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation’, (‘Nous nous tournons vers l’Écosse pour trouver toutes nos idées sur la civilisation’).
Scotland is now watching the UK planning a future that does not accord with our ideas of civilisation, democracy and good governance. We appeal to Europe to assure us another future is possible if the people of Scotland choose to pick up our Enlightenment heritage to help forge a new pan European destiny.
Please speak up for us.
Historical notes of relevance. During the period of the 14th century wars of independence England sought to force upon the people of Scotland a future not of their choosing. Wishing to remain a free European nation, Scotland reached out to Europe for support on trade and an end to the incursion of English armies. Scotland again faces a future it did not choose.
The Lübeck Letter
Trade with Europe was important to Scotland. Trade had been disrupted due to repeated invasion from England. The Lübeck letter was an appeal for the resumption of trade with merchants at Lübeck and Hamburg, advising Scotland’s ports were open and seeking reciprocal access for Scotland’s merchants in a medieval forerunner of the Single Market. Written at Haddington, Scotland on 11th October 1297 by the Guardians of Scotland, William Wallace and Andrew Murray, the following is a modern translation.
Andrew de Murray and William Wallace, leaders of the army of the kingdom of Scotland, and the community of the same kingdom, to their worthy, discreet and beloved friends the mayors and communes of Lübeck and Hamburg, greeting, and increase always of sincere friendship.
It has been intimated to us by trustworthy merchants of the said kingdom of Scotland that you by your own goodwill are giving counsel, help and favour in all causes and business concerning us and our merchants, although our merits had not deserved this, and therefore all the more are we bound to you to give you thanks and a worthy recompense, to do which we are willing to be obliged to you; and we ask you that you will make it be proclaimed amongst your merchants that they can have secure access to all ports of the kingdom of Scotland with their merchandise since the kingdom of Scotland, thanks be to God, has by arms been recovered from the power of the English. Farewell.
Given at Haddington in Scotland on the 11th day of October in the year of grace one thousand two hundred and ninety seven.
We request moreover that you will see fit to forward the business of John Burnet and John Frere, our merchants, just as you wish us to forward the business of your merchants. Farewell. Given as before.
(Translation made by Dr Alan Borthwick, National Records of Scotland, June 2012)
Following defeat at the Battle of Falkirk Wallace went to France to seek the support of King Philip IV of France. There was no European Parliament or EU Commission in those days, and inter-nation appeals were channelled though the Vatican. In a letter to his agents in Rome Philip wrote:
Philip by the grace of God King of the French to our loved and faithful our agents appointed to the Roman Court, greetings and love. We command/ you to request the Supreme Pontiff to consider with favour our beloved William le Walois [Wallace] of Scotland, knight/ in those things which he has to transact with him. Given at Pierrefonds on Monday after the feast of All Saints. [7 Nov 1300]
The letter from Philip was a continuation of Scotland’s campaign. Pope Boniface VIII (c. 1235-1303), head of western Christendom wanted peace between nations so that he could launch a crusade which would involve collaboration between European Christian nations. The year before, in 1299 he ordered Edward I to cease his war against Scotland. England wasn’t listening.