Saturday, 29 March 2008

Independence and Interdependence

Today's Herald 'Brown attacks SNP plan to split Union', covers the speech given by Gordon Brown at the Labour Party Conference in Aviemore.

According to Brown, independence for Scotland would create new barriers to trade and travel and would be a backward move to c19th nationalism at a time when the world is moving towards greater interdependence.

Spending the amount of time that I do across in Brussels this latest set of 'scaremongering' comments coming yet again from a Labour Party that is so clearly out of touch not just with Scotland but with the realities of the modern world, and Europe in particular, are bizarre.

In autumn 2006 the Labour Party predicted that the sky would fall down if Scotland elected an SNP government - the latest set of opinion polls speak for themselves about the success of the SNP government with the SNP 10% ahead of Labour, Alex Salmond 40 points ahead of Gordon Brown and 75 points ahead of Wendy Alexander in leadership approval ratings.

I wonder what countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia in particular given that it is currently running the EU and a member of the Eurozone unlike the UK, would make of Brown's comments. Having achieved their independence in 1991, all of these European nation states are now making their way in the world as independent members of the EU, the United Nations, WTO, etc where they have their own distinctive voice, can take their own decisions and work together with others in helping the international community address global challenges of today's modern world such as climate change, international development. Working as I do in the European Parliament I have the privilege of seeing their success on a daily basis.

Writing in today's Scotland on Sunday,
'A new sang for a changing world', the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond is right when he says that:

"the reality of the modern world is that the process of independence and interdependence go hand in hand and that Scotland can best play its distinctive role on the basis of independence and equality of status".

What Labour's leadership continues to fail to grasp is that in today's world there is nothing unusual about the birth of independent nations; it is an ordinary common place feature of contemporary Europe's landscape. The international community has found ways of addressing this and the EU is actively highly supportive by recognising and welcoming new states and moving quickly to incorporate them into its external policies. Why would this be any different for Scotland?

One of Europe's most recent nations, Montenegro, voted for its independence in a referendum on 21 May 2006 and declared its independence on 3 June 2006. Significantly, it did so with active EU support. Montenegro was immediately recognised as an independent country by the EU, and is now recognised by 94 countries across the world. Within a month of its independence Montenegro was a full member of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (21 June) and the United Nations (28 June) and has applied for membership of the WTO. In October 2007 Montenegro signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU which provides the legal framework for relations between the EU and Montenegro for the entire period prior to possible future accession as well as the creation of a free trade zone. So rather than putting up barriers Montenegro's independence is seeing the barriers to trade and travel coming down.

In his recent Edinburgh lecture on
"globalisation and nationalism: the new deal", Tom Nairn said:

'As we have seen, the old question used to be: “Are you big enough to survive and develop into an industrialising world?” The advent of globalisation is replacing this with another, something close to: “Are you small and smart enough to survive and claim a positive place in the common global culture?” Not surprisingly, the most common answer coming up from the bowels and steerage accommodation of the common ship is: “You bet we are…nor do we mean to be deprived of the chance”.

This is certainly the case even as we look at recent events in the Western Balkans and the emergence of Kosova, albeit its independence is supervised for the time being by the EU and the international community.

No comments: