Project Fear 2 and Europe for Scotland
With less than a week to go to voting at Holyrood the media has been awash with nostalgia as all platforms and mediums beamed out Project Fear 2. Nicola Sturgeon was hounded from studio to studio and a sort of feeding frenzy emerged as papers and programmes tried to out-bid each other in the war against a referendum: “Nicola Sturgeon struggles to answer key questions about Scottish independence” tried the Telegraph, “Independence would result in a hard border” said The Scotsman, “Nicola Sturgeon dealt ‘hammer blow’ as RBS warns it will move to London under independence” cried the Daily Express … and on and on. The Herald focused on the fact that the FM didn’t claim she’d remove Trident immediately and banks and companies lined up to say they’d leave if people voted to govern themselves.
It was like the summer of 2014 all over again.
The phenomena was revealing – not because the media shouldn’t interrogate politicians – they absolutely should – but because none of the focus was on the actual content of the SNPs manifesto, policies or programme for government, all of it was about a future event that most of the media simultaneously claim will never happen.
In a mixture of disdain and blind panic the salvos had two main areas of focus, the economy and ‘borders’.
This was kind of odd because, as smart readers will remember what was said in 2014 was: “You can’t be independent because you won’t be in EU” – now in 2021 the message has changed to: “You can’t be independent because you’ll be in the EU.”
The borders obsession is strong for people who simply can’t conceive of Britain not being a unitary state, it triggers some kind of shock in the minds of some people for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. I’ve never really understood what this is about. People travel, people cross borders every day across the world. It’s no big deal. I suspect it is something that will be used to bash the indy movement then quickly forgotten about after, like smoking in pubs.
Of course the issue would be about access to market, and here again the issue of Scotland’s relationship to Europe rears itself. In contrast to the Project Fear 2 Frenzy this week saw some old-fashioned Love Bombing from allies across Europe. More than 200 prominent European writers, artists and cultural figures call on Europeans everywhere to join them and tell the Scottish people they would be welcome back in the EU, if they so wish. More than 200 leading writers, artists and thinkers from every EU member state have signed a letter to the EU leadership calling for Scotland to be unilaterally offered generous terms for re-entry to the EU.
The signatories include, world leading thinkers as the economic historian Adam Tooze, the Dutch sociologist and globalisation expert Saskia Sassen, the English Holberg Prize winner theorist of Black Atlantic and black studies Paul Gilroy, German Peace Prize winner and cultural historian Jan Assmann, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, Belgian political economist Philippe Van Parijs, acclaimed investigative journalist and writer Roberto Saviano, British historian David Edgerton, the French political philosopher Etienne Balibar, and renowned Norwegian anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen.
Signatories come from every single EU member state and all UK nations. Among them some of the world leading philosophers and political thinkers and acclaimed European novelists, actors and musicians.
They are joined by actors, filmmakers, artists and cultural figures from across all European nations. They include Golden Globe winner Brian Cox, Academy Award winner Cristopher Hampton and Grammy Award winner Brian Eno. Among them also the Booker nominated writers Elena Ferrante (Italy), Colm Tóibín (Ireland), Daniel Kehlmann (Germany), Philip Pullman, Ian McEwan, James Robertson, the European Book Prize winners Sofi Oksanen (Finland/Estonia) and England’s Jonathan Coe, award winning novelist Carsten Jensen (Denmark), William Boyd, fantasy writer Neal Gaiman, crime writer Val McDermid. poet Neşe Yaşın (Cyprus), rising star playwright Borna Vujčić (Croatia), multi award winning composer Nigel Osborne, composers Alexander Vella Gregory (Malta) and Oscar nominated Patrick Doyle.
A large number of leading democracy scholars support the call, including political philosophers such as Srećko Horvat (Croatia) Daniel Innerarity (Spain) G. M. Tamás (Hungary) Philip Pettit (Ireland) Axel Honneth (Germany), political scientists such as Mary Kaldor Nadia Urbinati (Italy) Brigid Laffan (Ireland) Kalypso Nicolaïdis (Greece) Ulrike Guerot (Germany) Albena Azmanova (Bulgaria) Olivier Costa (France) Leif Lewin (Sweden) Sławomir Sierakowski (Poland) Miklós Haraszti (Hungary) Claus Offe (Germany) Rainer Baubock (Austria) Yves Many (France) Willem Schinkel (Netherlands) Tom Nairn, Vladimir Tismăneanu (Romania) Jan Sowa (Poland) and Brendan O’Leary (Ireland), European law scholars Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Alberto Alemanno (Italy) and Anne Weyembergh (Belgium), criminologist Federico Varese (Italy), the Human Rights lawyers Katrin Oddsdottir (Iceland) and Debora Kayembe. Finally leading political figures and activists as former Portuguese presidential candidate Ana Gomes (Portugal) and architect of the Good Friday agreement journalist and former Head of the European Commission in Northern Ireland Jane Morrice.
In Scotland the letter was signed by the Scots Makar (poet laureate) Jackie Kay, actors Sam Heughan, Brian Cox, writers such as Val McDermid, William Boyd, Neal Ascherson, and James Robertson, broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, Scots writer Billy Kay, investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, singer, young musician Jānis Šipkēvics (Latvia), acclaimed documentary maker Apolena Rychlíková (Czech) and Jure Ivanušič (Slovenia).
In solidarity with Scotland and frustration with Westminster, many well-known cultural and academic figures in England and Wales have joined Europe for Scotland including: Misha Glenny, George Monbiot, Richard Eyre, Carman Calill, Vron Ware, Gary Younge, Stuart White, Hilary Wainwright, Laura McAllister, John Osmond, David and Judith Marquand.
It was an impressive roster of individuals and a gesture of democracy and solidarity.
Predictably it was derided by people who don’t want Scotland to be in the EU – from the left and the right.
But the issue was NOT in my mind about ‘the EU’, it was (and is) about democracy.
Someone wrote “just because you broke up with someone doesn’t mean you’ll want to get back with them”.
But that doesn’t describe what happened.
Scotland was removed from the EU against our will, we didn’t choose to leave. We didn’t ‘split up’ we were broken up.
Whether Scotland decides to re-join the EU, or other institutions will be decided after we re-gain independence, but the Europe for Scotland project is an impressive display of international solidarity. Scotland has banked karma. But if the hand of friendship contrasted sharply with the hostility of the British media it also begs the question, does Project Fear have the same reach anymore? My feeling is that much of the tactics of fear and intimidation have been over-played and are now of diminishing returns.
Finally the economic case is not the slam-dunk that unionists like to think. How do we know this? Because two of their top advisors told us.
You’ll remember the hastily withdrawn paper by Richard Mackenzie-Gray Scott and Geoffrey Chapman? The analysis by Richard Mackenzie-Gray Scott, a research fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, and Geoffrey Chapman, an economic adviser to the Department of International Trade, used the break-up of Czechoslovakia as a model for the UK in the event of independence. The paper had been published on the London School of Economics and Political Science website. A UK government official issued a statement saying: “This is not the view of the Department for International Trade or the UK government, and the matter is being looked into.”
I bet it is.
Mackenzie-Gray Scott and Geoffrey Chapman concluded: “Considering Scotland has all the necessary machinery in place to become an independent state, we see no obvious reasons why Scotland would not succeed economically if it were to do so.”
They write: ‘While becoming independent would have immediate economic costs, the long-term view suggests there are benefits. By contrasting Scotland and England to the Slovak Republic and Czech Republic’s ‘Velvet Divorce’, our research suggests that an independent Scotland will continue growing real GDP per capita despite higher trade costs.”
Crucially, they advocate cessation by rule of law, as the key to international support, but also:
“In light of long-run economic growth and stability, it might be worthwhile for Scotland to attempt entering into foreign relations with other states and international organisations if there was no cooperation from the UK to take forward another referendum result favouring independence. A key factor is that if the UK did not respect any future referendum result favouring independence, unilateral Scottish secession would become more legitimate, meaning international recognition of Scotland as an independent state would arguably be more likely.”
This is interesting because it suggests that the Europe for Scotland project is indicative not just of international recognition and support, it is not ‘just’ soft-power’ but a route out. Scotland being ‘in the world’ again not just in a political or metaphorical sense but in a sense of having strategic partnerships, alliances, trade routes and pan-European standards as it leaves Britain for good.