Alex Neil’s rebellion doesn’t have much reasoning behind it
On 26th May this year there was a long debate in the Scottish parliament over whether Scotland and the rest of the UK should remain part of the EU.
Alex Neil voted in that debate and he voted to stay in the EU. Yet, he has now revealed, that in the actual EU referendum, he secretively voted to leave.
You could ask questions about why he didn’t talk openly about his vote at the time. It is questionable for a politician to let his constituents think he was doing one thing while secretly doing the other. However, it was a referendum, and he was entitled to change his mind. I have a lot of respect for people who don’t tow the party line. Maybe he came across some profound new arguments in the short time between the debate in parliament and the actual vote. Let’s examine his reasoning as reported in the Telegraph:
Among the factors Mr Neil said influenced his vote was the manner in which the EU had imposed extreme austerity on member states such as Portugal and Greece and a surge in support for Right-wing parties on the Continent. He agreed Scotland, which has a higher deficit than Greece, could face a similar fate in the EU and warned the voting rights of smaller member states had been watered down.
Nothing new there then, and not really a strong case if you ask me. While the EU has indeed imposed austerity on Greece, they were able to do so because Greece is in the Eurozone.
The Eurozone has strict rules to protect the value of the currency. Scotland would not have to join the Eurozone and we probably wouldn’t want to so Mr Neil’s fears are not based on reality.
The UK government supported the austerity imposed on Greece and encouraged them to sign up to it so I’m not sure what Mr Neil thinks he will be avoiding when we leave. Especially as the UK has also imposed extreme austerity on Scotland and is likely to impose more once we leave the safety blanket of EU law.
Also, while there may well be a rise in right wing parties in Europe, there is also a rise of them here at home. All of those parties are against the EU. So, it is strange to list the rise of right wing parties as a reason to support one of the main policies of those parties.
He inevitably went onto talk about one of our pet subjects, the Pro Indy Brexiteers, Neil said.
A proportion may not well vote for independence. Anecdotally a lot of them have hardened their position. A lot of them don’t understand why we don’t want to be run by London and would rather be run by Brussels.
I really don’t understand why, after all of the debates of recent years, people still don’t get the difference between a unitary state and a supranational organisation. A time served SNP politician should certainly understand this point. However, I’ll give it one last try by quoting an older blog.
The basic principle of the argument is that an independent Scotland within the EU is sovereign, whereas Scotland within the UK is not. The EU is a supranational organisation. An independent Scotland, could choose to cede some power to the EU in return for greater overall strength, safety and opportunity. An independent Scotland could easily choose to leave the EU, and the EU does not have the power to shut down the government of an independent Scotland. Contrast this with the situation of Scotland within the UK. Scotland does not have any power to cede to the UK. Power is given to Scotland by the UK and any power can be taken away by the UK as Westminster holds ultimate sovereignty. Scotland cannot easily leave the UK, first Scotland needs to be granted permission by the UK to have a vote on leaving.
So far I’m not convinced by Neil’s arguments but he says the issue that pushed him over the edge was the scaremongering from remainers:
In the last ten days of the campaign I was persuaded and George Osborne just tipped me over with his emergency budget. I saw the scaremongering and there was no way I was going to endorse it. I was not going to vote for George Osborne and David Cameron’s scare campaign.
This reasoning seems to be going downhill to me. Let’s leave aside that Osborne may have actually been correct, in that his prediction was based on the government triggering article 50 immediately.
Even if he was scaremongering this should have no effect on Neil’s opinion. He is not a frail wee granny cowering in front of a BBC news pension report. His decision should be based on the pros and cons of staying in or leaving the EU. The fact that he perceived one side to be scaremongering is completely irrelevant and that it spoke to his decision does speak to the paucity of his overall argument. Would Neil be more likely to vote to put babies on spikes if he thought the anti babies on spikes party was scaremongering?
So, while I am all for supporting people who don’t always tow the party line and I myself am often critical about SNP policy I don’t agree with, I can’t help being disappointed by the lack of a good case put forward by Neil in order to back up his decision. His argument just seems so weak.
As we discussed recently, probably the best solution to please the Pro Indy Brexiteers and most Remainers would be for an independent Scotland to join EFTA. Perhaps Neil should be looking into these types of options as opposed to chumming up with the likes of Oliver Mundell by giving in to a decision the majority of us in Scotland were against.