By Pat Kane
It’s fair to say – along with the not-so-gentle student arm-twisting of a newly elected representative for the South of Scotland region – that the veteran SNP grandee Jim Sillars is responsible for my current political identity.
His concept of independence-in-Europe, articulated in his mid 80′s book Scotland: A Case For Optimism - and still on the SNP website - was the first time I’d heard a truly sophisticated argument for Scottish independence: about reconnecting to the wider world, not just chippily tilting against our largest near-neighbour.
Somewhere in my personal archives I have a piece of campaign literature from the 1992 SNP campaign, arguing for “The New Union” for Scotland – that is, the European Union, with Scotland as integrated but independent nation-state within it. I also remember seeing Jim at a conference about 10 years ago, arguing with great vision about how an independent Scotland could contribute to the creation of a “strong European feel”, which would help legitimate and bolster a European governance that was certainly facing its challenges at that time.
This is personal, too: back to 1992, I shared an SNP Snappy Bus on Jim’s last, desperate day as a Govan MP during that years General Election. My admiration for his commitment to, and sympathy for, ordinary voters hasn’t diminished from that day to this.
But I have to say, quite clearly, that Jim’s current advocacy of what he’s calling “independence-lite” is fundamentally wrong – by which I mean the wrong political strategy for a majority SNP government, and an independence movement, readying itself for a momentous referendum.
In his Scotsman article, Jim clearly outlines what he thinks this revised vision of Scottish independence is:
an independent country in international law which has a kind of confederal relationship with England, in which the latter continues to carry out cross-Border functions like the DVLA, perhaps pension and social security payments, and a BBC with beefed up Scottish representation at Trust level. One which engages us in a quasi-Nato relationship on shared defence and security against terrorism, with Scotland paying its share of costs of those functions, plus our share of UK debt, from its sovereignty over all taxation including oil, and perhaps offsetting some of those costs by leasing the Trident base for a long period
What is noticeable, instantly, is the absence of the European Union from this picture. Does this mean that independence-supporters are giving up on playing their part in the policy-forming councils of Europe? Particularly when the general thrust of European policy – on social welfare, on environmental regulation, on urban development, on education – is still much more in line with the Scottish consensus than anything coming from Westminster? This seems a bizarre “Little Britain” horizon to impose on a politics of Scottish independence.
(This article is from Thoughtland, see here for the full original piece. We’ve re-produced it in part here because the Devo Max / Indy Lite has many supporters).