“What perspectives for an independent Scotland?”
External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop
Institut des Relations Internationales et Strategiques, Paris
Thursday April 3, 2014
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I am delighted to be here in Paris this evening to discuss Scotland’s place in the world and the constitutional journey that Scotland has embarked upon. I am very pleased to accept the invitation from the “Institut des Relations internationales et strategiques” and look forward to an interesting discussion with such a group of distinguished specialists on international relations.
Although it has been an accepted principle in the United Kingdom for many years now that the Scottish people could choose to be independent if they want to, I know that such wisdom does not apply in some other countries! I also know that the dissolution of a Union which has existed for over 300 years may have significant implications for the international order if not handled carefully, even if we strongly believe that the reestablishment of the independence of a country which was a proud independent country for many centuries before 1707 need not be difficult for Europe or the United Nations. I will therefore use my introductory remarks to explain our thinking on why Scotland should be an independent country and why we also strongly believe that an independent Scotland will be a significant contributor for good to the international order. I then look forward to a very interesting discussion with you!
Let me begin though with some words on the value the Scottish Government place on our links with France – not only the historic links going back to the Auld Alliance, but also the ongoing work today to build on those links and learn from each other.
On the historical links: the Auld Alliance is indeed old- “Auld” is the Scots word for old. The first treaty was concluded in Paris on 23rd October 1295 between Philip the Fair, King of France, and John Balliol, King of Scotland – we’re still friends after over 700 years! Balliol in fact is the Scots translation of Bailleul, a town in Northern France, so our joint history goes even further back.
Our rugby team may have conceded at the last moment a victory to France this year at Murrayfield, but we have fond memories of Scottish victories over France in the past, including when the 700th anniversary was celebrated at one of the last games at the Parc des Princes and the Bagpipe band invaded the pitch at the end to celebrate!
Linlithgow Palace, in my constituency, was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and home to Mary de Guise for a short time, when she first moved to Scotland, after her marriage to James the fifth. A marriage that took place not far from here at Notre-Dame in 1538.
Mary Queen of Scots, known to you as Marie Stuart, lived in France for most of the first 19 years of her life, and married the dauphin in 1558. When he became king Francis II the next year, Mary was Queen consort of France until his death in 1560. She then returned to Scotland to take up her Scottish throne. Her subsequent life was to some extent shrouded in controversy but her son, James VI, became King of England as well in 1603 and is a direct ancestor of our present and much loved monarch, the first Queen Elizabeth of Scotland. There was an excellent exhibition of Mary’s life at the Royal Museum of Scotland last year featuring among other things her last letter sent to her brother in law the King of France, written in her first language, of course that of her mother, which was French.
In the 17th and 18th centuries both France and Scotland were at the fore of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’,” le siècle des lumieres”. The Salons of France culminated in the great ‘Encyclopédie’ with contributions by hundreds of leading “philosophes”. The great Scottish philosopher David Hume met, and was influenced by many of the French philosophes when he served in the British Embassy in Paris. His colleague at the University of Edinburgh, the founder of modern economics Adam Smith, was greatly influenced by the work of Voltaire. This was reflected in his most popular work ‘Wealth of Nations where he outlined how everyone in a civilised market society was dependent upon the co-operation of multitudes.
France and Scotland’s histories have been entwined, both economically and culturally for over 700 years. We have built a shared history in tangible and intangible heritage, creativity and expression. General de Gaulle – who had Scottish ancestors on his mother’s side, - called the original Auld Alliance treaty of 1295 the “oldest alliance in the world,” when, in 1943, he inaugurated in Edinburgh the “Quartier General des Francais libres d’Ecosse”, in the building which today is the official residence of the French Consul General. Also this year many Scots will visit in commemoration, as they do every year, the cemeteries at the battlefields in places like the Somme where Scots made a major contribution to our common effort in the world wars.
Although all of these historic ties are valuable and important, our modern friendship between Scotland and France is just as worthy of celebrating. In areas for which the Scottish Government has responsibility under the current devolution settlement, we are already working together very successfully.
That’s reflected in our educational links. The Statement of Intent signed between our two governments in October 2013 will build on the great co-operation which already exists between our two countries – the French Institute’s promotion of language learning in Scotland; the partnerships between our local authorities; and the exchanges between our school students and teachers. Last December I was pleased to visit a primary school in le Plessis-Trevise, to the east of Champigny sur Marne which is developing a very valuable link with a primary school in Ballingry in Fife. I was delighted to see how interested the French children were in Scotland – helped by reading together in English the number one selling comic book in France last year, “Asterix and the Picts”!
And it goes much wider than schools. France is the number one destination for Scottish students under Erasmus (360 students in 2012/13). There were 681 incoming students from French Higher Education Institutions (HIEs) to Scottish HEIs on Erasmus exchange for academic year 2011-12 (2012-13 not yet available). This puts them in first place, with Germany in second (with 527 incoming students), Spain in third (with 385), and Italy in fourth (with 203) out of a total 2,730 incoming Erasmus students. This means that 24.9% of all incoming Erasmus students to Scottish HEIs came from France.
Our modern friendship is also reflected in our business links. Economically, France is important to Scotland. It is the third largest export territory, with an export value of £2,165 million (in 2012). According to HM Revenue and Customs figures released in April 2013, France was Scotland’s: largest European export market for food and drink in 2012 with exports worth £675 million; it was the second largest market for Scotch whisky, behind the US, with exports totalling £434 million; and the largest market for food with exports worth £241 million.
And as you are all aware, French businesses play a major role in Scotland. In total there are 145 French head-quartered businesses here, employing 25,000 people. For that reason I am particularly pleased in the strong interest in cooperation with Scotland shown by the French energy industry in particular. This is both in the oil and gas sector, where companies such as Total and Technip are major employers and investors in Scotland; and also in the field of renewable energy, where Scotland’s resources and know-how are creating strong collaboration with French counterparts. My First Minister had a very valuable meeting with the French Ecology and Energy Minister recently which emphasised how we can work together to promote our common interests in the low carbon economy focusing on the development of ocean energy, one of the most exciting areas of innovation where countries like ours with a long Atlantic seaboard will have competitive advantages in the future.
I was also delighted to sign the Franco- Scottish cultural Statement of Intent with Madame Filippetti, Minister for Culture and Communications, in December last year which underlines our commitment to promote and support cultural collaborations across both nations.
The Scottish Government places great importance on culture and heritage. Culture and heritage bind and connect our past, our present and our future and tell the stories about where we’ve come from, who we are and help us reflect on who we could be. I am indeed here in France to take part, at Mme Filipetti’s invitation, in a Ministerial conference on “Future of Culture, Future of Europe” being held in the Palais de Chaillot tomorrow and Saturday. I am looking forward to a fascinating couple of days!
And culture is not just, or even mainly about the past. One of the most enjoyable events I have been to in recent years was in my own town of Linlithgow, when Karl Lagerfield and Chanel chose Linlithgow Palace to launch their 2013 collection. Scotland and France share the privilege of having some of the finest fashion houses and designers and this augurs well for our collaboration on creative industries as we take forward our collaboration.
So let me now turn to Scotland and our plans for the future. This year, all of Scotland’s strengths –our people, our history and culture, our immense economic potential - will be on display to the world. That’s partly because the referendum on Scotland’s independence will attract global attention.
But it’s also because, Scotland will holding a second year of homecoming – when we invite the world to Scotland with a spectacular series of events across the country – from arts and film festivals in Orkney in the north, to the world’s biggest Burns night parade in Dumfries in the south.
And Scotland is also hosting two of the biggest sporting events on the planet – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles. Indeed, colleagues from France will be watching our operations at Gleneagles very closely since France will hold the next Ryder Cup in 2018, at “Le Golf National” on the outskirts of Versailles.
There are two points about that. First, 2014 will be an even better year than usual to visit Scotland, or to host conferences and events here. But secondly, the events we’re staging in 2014 say something important about modern Scotland.
At the same time that we’re considering whether to become an independent country, we are also extending a welcome to the world. Scotland has always been an outward-looking nation, as our historic ties with France demonstrate. And so independence for Scotland would involve embracing the interdependence of the modern world.
That’s why our national identity has always included a strong sense of internationalism.
It’s why there is an overwhelming political consensus in Scotland in support of the European Union.
And it’s why, ever since the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government were established in 1999, we have sought to play a larger part on the world stage - by making new friendships and by strengthening auld alliances
What this highlights is that Scotland’s history has always been bound with Europe; its future will be too.
I’d like to tell you now about how we have arrived at this critical point in our constitutional history. Why in my view independence does not mean separation from the rest of the UK or the European Union. But rather Scotland taking its rightful place as an independent member of the international community.
First, let me set out the current constitutional arrangements in Scotland. Our own national parliament in Edinburgh was reconvened in 1999 after an adjournment of almost 300 years. It has powers over health, education and culture, justice and much more besides. However key decisions that affect our future - on economic policy, defence, foreign affairs and welfare - are taken, not by the people of Scotland, but by the UK Government in London.
Since 1999, successive Scottish Parliaments have legislated for progressive purposes. Legislation that has produced policies that I’d describe generally as consistent with the Social Democratic ethos that underpins and informs politics and political discourse in Scotland. Let me give some concrete examples of how we have been able to improve lives of those living in Scotland.
The first Scottish Parliament introduced world leading homelessness legislation. The second Parliament took bold action to tackle Scotland’s health inequalities through a ban on smoking in public places. The third Parliament, reintroduced free university tuition and I was the Minister who took through this legislation. That means that students from across the EU, including France, are not required to pay tuition fees when attending a Scottish University.
And the current Parliament will see world leading action to tackle Scotland’s relationship with alcohol with minimum pricing, and legislate to expand and transform early years’ education and care.
All of these successes have been achieved under devolution; we believe so much more could be achieved as an independent nation.
Independence will ensure that future Scottish Governments will be able to legislate policies that ensure we can build the type of prosperous, inclusive and fairer society that the overwhelming majority of Scots want.
This brings me to the core purpose of independence – which is to make Scotland a more successful and fairer nation and to improve the lives of people who live in Scotland. The key difference would be that all decisions for Scotland would be taken by a Scottish Parliament and a Scottish Government, and in Scotland’s interests. With independence the Scottish Government will have access to the full range of fiscal policy levers necessary to ensure our economy can, and will, exploit its economic potential to the full.
Before I turn to some of the key advantages of independence on the European and international stage, I want to highlight the democratic deficit that independence will address.
Today, Scotland has no formal voice on the international stage. Instead, we are represented by a Westminster government that we often have not voted for and that has based its actions on very different international priorities. We see that most clearly in matters of war and peace and in our relationship with the European Union.
As everyone in this audience will recognise, the EU is the source of a wide range of economic and social policy and legislation that affects Scotland’s economy and society. Independence will allow the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament to represent our own interests within the EU Institutions and at every stage in the EU legislative and policy process.
I want to stress that independence is not separation. Independence will mean strong, new relationships between Scotland and the rest of the UK and with other members of the European Union. It will also mean Scotland taking its place amongst the other independent nations of the world, at the United Nations and through strengthened and deepened bilateral links. As a good global citizen, Scotland will be able to choose its own aims, its own partnerships and its own priorities, working alongside like-minded countries to secure Scotland’s national interests.
The referendum in September of this year will deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of the people of Scotland. They will be asked to vote on the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No’?
In November, the Scottish Government published a prospectus for an independent Scotland - 'Scotland's Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland' - the 600 page prospectus sets out the case for independence in considerable detail and answers many of the questions ordinary citizens have about the implications for them of Scotland becoming an independent country.
It is very important that our friends in Europe and further afield – understand that should a majority of voters vote for independence in next year’s referendum this decision will be fully consistent with UK constitutional practice, endorsed as it is by the British Parliament and Government. Politicians in both the Scottish and British parliaments have for many years endorsed the right of the Scottish people to self-determination. Mrs Thatcher once said:
As a nation, they have an undoubted right to national self-determination; thus far they have exercised that right by joining and remaining in the Union. Should they determine on independence no English party or politician would stand in their way, however much we might regret their departure.
The constitutional “authority” for the referendum was provided by the Edinburgh Agreement, signed on 15 October 2012 between the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond. It sets the framework for the referendum and confirmed that the rules and procedures would be determined by the Scottish Parliament.
Paragraph 30 of the agreement confirms that the two governments will work together in light of the outcome of the referendum.
It is therefore very important that our partners across the EU understand that if a majority of Scotland’s voters endorse independence in September this year, as I believe they will, this will be fully consistent with UK constitutional practice.
This brings me onto membership of the European Union.
Scotland has been part of the European Union for 40 years and is strongly committed to continuing membership within the EU as an independent Member State.
Membership of the EU provides Scottish businesses with access to the single market with a population of 500 million citizens, making it one of the largest single markets in the world. Around 20 million businesses operate in the EU single market, supplying goods and services to consumers and businesses both in the EU and on the global market.
We also benefit from the inclusive nature of the EU and its people. As I mentioned earlier, approximately 160,000 workers and students have chosen to come to Scotland from Germany, Ireland, Holland, France, and countries such as Poland.
We also contribute a lot to Europe. Key economic sectors in Scotland matter to Europe and provide opportunities for Europeans to live, work and train in Scotland.
We share the long-term objectives set out by the European Commission in its Europe 2020 growth strategy, focused as it is on creating the conditions for delivering growth that is smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive.
Yet, as I indicated earlier, there is an anomaly – although the Scottish Government delivers every day for Scotland on a range of issues - health, education, employment, social policies - it is the UK Government - not the Scottish Government – who has a seat at the table in Brussels and delivers a UK line on these issues.
Not being at the top table has harmed our interests for four decades. Within the UK, we are consulted but the UK Government is under no obligation to listen to us. With independence, we would contribute as equals. Our future within Europe would be strengthened by independence.
And it is not only that independence will make sure Scotland’s interests are properly represented in EU negotiations. It is also the case that independence is the only way of ensuring the EU gets the best deal out of Scotland. As matters stand it seems inevitable that a future UK Government will seek to re-negotiate the terms of the UK’s EU membership. One area repeatedly identified by the British Prime Minister as a candidate for renegotiation is the free movement of persons – one of the core freedoms on which the EU single market is built. The Scottish Government has, and will continue, to distance itself from this proposition.
As you know the British Government is currently conducting a review of the balance of competences between the EU and member states. The stated aim is to inform the parties’ manifestos for the 2015 Westminster election. We know there are many in Europe who would like to see reform in the way the UK works. I’m pleased to say that the Scottish Government has published its own ‘Scotland’s Priorities for EU Reform’ on February 18, 2014. The paper focusses on the relationship between Scotland and the European Union in a policy context, examining how the EU exercises its powers in many areas which are particularly important for Scotland, such as agriculture, fisheries and environment and climate change.
Importantly, it highlights the positive impact that membership of the EU has had on Scotland and outlines the areas of EU law and policy which we are seeking to reform in accordance with Scotland’s priorities. The key here is that Scotland does not think treaty change is needed for these reforms. Let me be clear here that this is distinct from any negotiations on our continued membership and the principles of ‘continuity of effect’ or of ‘no detriment’ that I raised earlier. We will remain committed to reform from within the EU, as a constructive Member State.
Specifically the paper highlights the positive impact that migrants have had on the Scottish economy, particularly in rural areas. The paper also recognises that the single market can only function well if all Member States provide a minimum level of protection for employment opportunities, wages and other employment conditions. As such, the Scottish Government considers that these social and employment protections are vital to the functioning of the single market and go hand in hand with having a dynamic and competitive economy.
But the UK Prime Minister has made it clear that his party will campaign for an in out referendum, to take place in 2017. We think this is very regrettable and creates considerable uncertainty about the UK’s position in Europe, which can only unsettle partners. We are making it crystal clear to the Scottish electorate that the best way to secure Scotland’s continuing place in the EU is to vote yes in the Scottish referendum. We will also continue to argue strongly for the continuing membership by the UK of the European Union, whatever the outcome of the referendum.
Now there has been a lot of debate on ‘how’ Scotland would continue its membership and I want to say something about the process by which we would seek to ensure our continuing membership.
Following a vote for independence the Scottish Government would immediately enter into negotiations with the UK Government and other EU Member States, through the European Council, to ensure that an independent Scotland achieves a smooth and timely transition to membership of the EU.
The Scottish Government will approach EU membership negotiations operating on the principle of ‘continuity of effect’: that is a transition to independent membership that is based on the EU Treaty obligations and provisions that currently apply to Scotland under its present status as part of the UK, and without disruption to Scotland’s current fully integrated standing within the legal, economic, institutional, political and social framework of the EU. This approach ensures ‘no detriment’ to other Member States as we will not be presenting a list of exceptional demands.
As we set out in detail in our paper ‘Scotland’s Future’, an independent Scotland will retain current terms which include sterling as her currency and will remain inside the UK and Ireland-wide Common Travel Area. We regard both of these positions as consistent with Scotland’s economic and social priorities and not incompatible with fulfilling our wider obligations as independent members of the European Union.
There is much discussion of law and process in the debate. Ultimately, the most powerful case for Scotland’s continued membership is not based on law or process – but on common sense, respect for the founding principles of the EU, reality and mutual self-interest.
As an independent member of the EU, Scotland – with a population of 5 million – will take its place as one of what is now a majority of comparably sized countries. This would ensure Scotland’s citizens had direct representation in the EU legislative and policy processes at every level – a situation that would be undeniably superior to the current situation.
It is important to stress that as an independent member state, Scotland would engage constructively with other member states in tackling the challenges we all face. This includes challenges at the economic level, challenges at the level of the democratic legitimacy of the EU, and the significant societal challenges that confront all EU member states.
We do not underestimate the challenges facing the EU at this time. The financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 and which has led to deeply unpopular measures being implemented at EU level have triggered debates across the EU about its future direction and governance and, more immediately, the reforms that are necessary in the short-term to assist the EU economic recovery. The Scottish Government fully endorses the Europe 2020 strategy, and will play a full and supportive role in ensuring its success.
Let me turn now to our wider foreign policy plans. The impact of world events has increasingly important implications for both domestic and foreign policy. An international outlook has never been so necessary. As recent financial events have demonstrated, no economy is isolated from global economic conditions and every nation is increasingly dependent, to a greater or lesser degree, on the flow of international trade and investment and its relationships with others. And recent events in Ukraine have sharpened our understanding of the importance of a clear an effective security approach.
The development of a coherent set of polices surrounding an independent Scotland's position on foreign affairs, defence and security will therefore be essential.
An independent Scotland would not need to replicate the structure of the Westminster Government or adopt its processes. Scotland's smaller size and specific national interests mean that we can adopt a more focused approach to the design and delivery of foreign and defence policies.
Under our plans, an independent Scotland's foreign, security and defence policies would be grounded in a clear framework:
• Participation in rules-based international co-operation to secure shared interests. Scotland will be an active member of global institutions and will be party to fair and reciprocal agreements which respect human rights.
• Protection of Scotland, our people and our resources. This encompasses the role of defence and security capabilities in ensuring the safety of Scotland's territory, citizens, institutions, values and systems against factors which could undermine prosperity, wellbeing and freedom. It also includes the role of the Government's overseas services in protecting Scots abroad
• Promotion of sustainable economic growth. Using Scotland's place in the world and our approach to global affairs to develop Scotland's economy is key to ensuring the continued and increased prosperity of the nation. Promotion of the many other positive aspects of Scottish life will also be a significant component of this work ranging from highlighting Scotland's world-class universities, to capitalising on our cultural and environmental profile, building on our already impressive international reputation
Scotland's foreign policy and international relations will take place within three overlapping and interacting spheres that will be the cornerstones of Scotland's foreign policy:
• our partnership with the other nations of the British and Irish islands
• our regional role as an active member of the EU with strong links to the Nordic countries and the Arctic
• The global context: our independent role in international and multilateral organisations, including the UN and NATO.
I know that in France you are very interested in questions of defence and security and work very closely with the UK Government as well as other European partners. An independent Scotland will respect French aims and support France as much as we can, in keeping with the close links we have had over many centuries, in war and peace.
As well as playing a full role in the Common Foreign and Defence Policy, Scotland will join NATO. NATO membership is in Scotland's interests, and the interests of our neighbours, because it underpins effective conventional defence and security co operation.
Our intention is to be a non-nuclear member of NATO participating in joint defence planning, in the same way as countries of a similar size like Norway or Denmark are today. It has been a long standing policy aim of my party – and many others in Scotland, to see the UK’s nuclear deterrent removed from Scottish soil and we will be aiming to secure its removal as part of our negotiations with the UK Government after independence.
Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will immediately start to put in place conventional defence capabilities to meet Scotland's needs on independence, We will establishing a military staff to advise the Scottish Government in the transition and the development of appropriate defence capabilities
This Government plans that, 10 years after independence, Scotland will have a total of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel across land, air and maritime forces.
As the government of an independent country, the primary purpose of our international engagement would be the promotion and protection of Scotland's national interests. Currently these can only be a part of the UK's considerations and Westminster's policies will rarely be fully aligned with what is right for Scotland.
Where Scotland's interests coincide with the interests of the rest of the UK, together we will form a more powerful voice for action. When Scotland has a distinct view, we will have a new ability to build alliances and make our case, ensuring that what is right for the people of Scotland is heard.
Ladies and Gentlemen as I have explained this afternoon, Scotland has already come a long way in her constitutional journey and there is further still to go.
Whilst I am clear that Scotland could do so much more as an independent nation, whatever transpires this year in our referendum, international engagement will remain key to realising our ambition of increasing sustainable economic growth.