Shirley Williams was in Scotland this week. Firstly, last Sunday she spoke at the East Dunbartonshire Liberal Democrats’ Annual Dinner and then today the Herald carries an article by her.
There is nothing which marks her words as being markedly better or worse than the screeds to which we’ve been exposed. It’s the same
unbalanced totally one-sided approach which is littered with untruths and partial truths designed to create uncertainty and fear about life after independence.
The speech and article are virtually identical. Below is a copy of her Herald article [in pale orange]. Where there were significant differences I have inserted the relevant parts from her speech [in salmon pink]. Also I’ve included my toned down views.[in the normal text colour here]
You, the people of Scotland, are engaged in a crucial debate about the future of your country, a debate that you and you alone will decide.
But inevitably the future of the United Kingdom, of which you are a vital part, will be much affected. Well, yes! The UK won’t exist. But ’vital’? Of course, we’re vital now. The vast majority of oil will be Scotland’s. Without Scotland, will England, Wales and Northern Ireland retain its Security Council seat?
Therefore I hope you will allow a voice, if not a vote, to your fellow UK citizens about some of the issues you have to confront. But not just any voice but a unionist voice, a voice of apparent reason but actually of massive unreason. I wonder what issues you think we need to confront? Decisions made in Scotland for Scotland? Using our money where we want to spend it? Using our resources as we see fit? Our visions not those imposed from elsewhere?
I also want to tell you why, as a citizen of the United Kingdom who is not a Scot, I have found Scotland and its people an inspiration ever since, as a young woman, I first scrambled up the Trossachs, Ben Ledi, Suilven and the Cuillins. There’s always a bit like this. I’m not Scottish but I’ve always loved Scotland and Scots and so you can trust that what I say I say out of love. No! We’re way past this.
Let me begin with the issues. These cannot be easily dismissed. It’s clear already. It’s the language: ‘cannot be easily dismissed’. Start worrying now. Are you afraid yet? No? OK there’s plenty more to come which will scare the daylights out of you.
But you forget. We know there will be difficult issues. We know we won’t get all we want. But independence isn’t just for this year, next year, this decade, this generation. Independence is for all of us for all time. There is plenty time to get Scotland as we wish. A bit of hardship: we’ll live with it now so that our future is ours.
The first is the challenges Scotland would face winning the same beneficial terms of European Union membership as it currently enjoys as part of the UK.
The First Minister has repeatedly said that a Scotland outside the United Kingdom would want to be a full member of the EU. I agree with him. I’ll let the use of UK pass.
The EU has extended democracy and the rule of law far beyond our shores; has become a magnet of hope to the people of troubled European countries such as Ukraine and Georgia; and, above all, has established in western Europe a zone of peace for the past 60 years. Leaving it would be an act of lunacy. OK It’s your wee dig at the Tories.
But the EU has developed its own rules, and expects them to be respected. Among the rules are those regarding membership. Scotland, seeking membership as a separate nation, would have to accept them or, at the very least, negotiate any change in them. You’re trying to ramp up the pressure but it doesn’t work. No decision has been made as to whether Scotland will be a separate nation or a continuing state. The current UK government position is very clear today but no one knows what the position will be at the end of negotiations between Scotland and the remains of the UK after a ‘Yes’ vote’'.
At meetings of the European Council, where the governments of all 28 EU members are represented, two conditions have been laid down for new members in addition to the Copenhagen principles regarding democracy and the rule of law.
The first was that any new members would be obliged to accept the Schengen Agreement, which removes border restrictions on the movement of people and goods within the European Union. Ah, Shirley, but will Scotland be viewed as a new member. You’re making the same assumptions we see virtually everywhere. You’re wearing blinkers.
The second is membership of the eurozone, the currency area which uses the euro. The United Kingdom is not a member of either and negotiated an opt-out from both. An independent Scotland would have to either accept these conditions of EU membership, or seek its own opt-out, which would not be easy to obtain. My comments from the paragraph above apply here.
Among our fellow members, there is growing resistance to any more opt-outs in a single market seeking further integration. Stop it! The emperor is wearing no clothes!
Negotiating terms of membership could also see significant changes to the terms we worked for together throughout the decades: the UK rebate and our clout on the common agricultural and common fisheries policies. And the money for Scottish farmers that the UK government is distributing to farmers across the entire UK? That’s what we get when decisions are made in London. Win some, lose some: that’s the price of democracy.
So I believe Scotland and the UK as a whole benefit from being part of a Britain which is firmly in Europe. Think you’re a bit confused here. Let’s look at this sentence . Scotland benefits and the UK as a whole benefits from being a part of a Britain!!! Scotland is part of Britain but the next bit: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is part of Britain? But enough of this dissection. What you should have said was that, after independence, Scotland would benefit from being firmly in Europe. The remainder of the UK too would benefit from being firmly in Europe but that will be a decision for the remainder of the UK because Scotland will be in.
It is that composition which gives us the levers to ensure that more people are in work.
In a brilliant speech to the UK Parliament's two chambers on Wednesday, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel referred again and again to the importance of members of the EU working together, to maximise their influence in a turbulent world where Europe has one-quarter of the world's gross domestic product but only 7% of the planet's population.
Europe, she said, would have to become more competitive and more innovative but also more united if it was to deal with the challenges of climate change and technological transformation, while protecting its own values and advancing the EU objectives of peace, freedom and prosperity.
She is far too wise to intervene in Scotland's decision, but it is hard to believe from this speech that she would welcome the break-up of the United Kingdom. What you mean is that Angela Merkel made no mention of Scotland or the possible break-up of the UK. This is wishful thinking. She’s a politician: she’ll deal with it when it happens.
I know that I am not alone in sharing with Chancellor Merkel the sentiment towards ensuring that Britain - and not least Scotland as part of it - remains in Europe, securing the many millions of jobs these partnerships unlock. You’ve done it again. She didn’t mention Scotland but you have taken ownership of her words to achieve your ends.
[The above 7 paragraphs: from the dotted line to here could not be in her speech but instead she used the following 3 paras]
What would accepting these conditions mean? The Schengen agreement would require Scotland to establish controls along its border with England. Hadrian’s Wall would, at least in the bureaucratic sense, be re-established along the Cheviots. This is nonsense but let’s assume you were right. Would the remainder of the UK not need to build border controls too?
The Eurozone requirement would mean a separate currency. Creating that separate currency alongside a currency union with the rest of the United Kingdom would be very complicated and probably expensive. Whether or not it is attainable is surely something that should be explored during the current debate. How can this question be answered when the UK government has refused to ask the EU about the legal position after Scottish independence?
Alistair Darling, the chair of the Better Together campaign, has pointed out that the Royal Bank of Scotland was bailed out of its financial crisis in 2009 by the Bank of England. Its debts were such that bailing it out would, he says, have bankrupted an independent Scotland. Absolute crap. Scotland would have been responsible for a bail out of banks only on the basis of the business done in Scotland and not on their global (un)balance sheets.
The Eurozone has had to bail out several of its members, in particular Greece and Italy, mainly because Germany has been willing to pay. But it has done so on pretty stringent conditions, not least reductions in public expenditure and serious restructuring of banks and the national taxation systems. Scotland would face similar requirements were its banks again to need help. but only, Shirley, if Scotland was unable to bail them out. See the point above. No fear here, Shirley, despite your ‘sterling’ efforts. Plenty shaking of heads and laughter but fear isn’t on the horizon.
We return now to the Herald article and I let the next 6 paragraphs go before I comment about the establishment.
Let me turn to another subject that deserves discussion. In his response of February 17 to the speech made by David Cameron on February 7, Mr Salmond referred repeatedly to "the Westminster establishment".
I was interested in what he meant by his use of the term. I assume it was something other than the obvious point that Westminster is the site of the UK Parliament. After all, Parliament, from Prime Ministers to Cabinet Ministers, officials and MPs' staff, is drawn from all parts of the United Kingdom. There have been Scottish Prime Ministers, both before and since the Second World War, and many Cabinet Ministers from Scotland, often in senior positions.
So Mr Salmond cannot have been speaking simply of geography. Perhaps he had in mind a group of men (and a few women) who share common values and common objectives.
But that won't quite do either. If I take the most contentious issue in recent British politics, the war on Iraq, I am proud, as the then-Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords, of sharing the passionate opposition to it and its disastrous aftermath with three great Scots: our inspiring party leader in the House of Commons, at the time, Charles Kennedy, and his wise successor Sir Menzies Campbell.
I honour, too, the then-Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, one of only two senior Cabinet members to resign (the other was English). I still remember the rumble of approval from the people who lined the street outside St Giles Cathedral when his funeral cortege passed.
All of us were members of the Westminster Parliament. But could we possibly be described as members of the same establishment?
Good try but a miserable fail. You pretend not to know about the Westminster establishment but you do know. You steer clear of the British establishment too.
You know why you fail?
Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby and member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council
You are a fully paid up member of the establishment. You are it, you are its views. You don’t get independence. You don’t even get democracy when it threatens the establishment.
These were voices of conscience but also voices of committed dissent.
Scotland has a global vision. It belongs to the world and must remain part of it. I know you’re 83, Shirley, but this is ridiculous. Independence will put Scotland beyond the world?
It belongs to Europe and must remain part of it. After independence, Scotland will remain part of Europe but will the remains of the UK remain part of Europe? What do you think, Shirley?
I can remember the excitement generated at the one European Council to be held in Scotland in 1992, when the churches and meeting rooms of Edinburgh were opened to a great civic debate on the EU, one in which Jacques Delors, then President of the Commission, took an active part.
From the Edinburgh Festival to the international reputation of Scottish composers and choreographers, great artists and poets, engineers and doctors, missionaries and scholars, Scotland has always moved out from its borders to embrace, and sometimes to transform, the wider world. And independence will change this? Our Scottish composers and choreographers, great artists and poets, engineers and doctors, missionaries and scholars? They’ll cease to be, they’ll not move beyond our borders when Scotland is independent? .
I believe a separate Scotland would be a diminished Scotland and would leave behind it a diminished United Kingdom. Are you so devoid of vision that you actually believe this?
And, as Chancellor Merkel made all too clear in her unashamedly pro-European speech, Scotland above all benefits from being in Britain, in Europe and in work. LIES, LIES AND MORE LIES. Merkel said nothing about Scotland being in Britain or in Europe or in work. The best chance Scotland has of being in Europe and in work is to be not in the UK but to be independent.
Shirley, if this the best you can do, please retire now.