29 November 2012
Scotland could prosper
outside the EU
Boy climbing on Mull
Photograph by Islay McLeod
According to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph 'Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said that any new nation state will have to apply for membership under international law. This would mean a separate Scotland having to sign up to the euro and the Schengen Agreement, which permits free movement without passport checks, unless it can secure its own version of the UK's opt-outs'.
The Telegraph article went on to state somewhat gleefully that 'shocked SNP ministers have been left reeling' by this observation.
But why? This is a terrific opportunity for Scotland to become a Switzerland of the north. Perhaps to develop its people's penchant for fondue and yodelling, for covered bridges, and magnificent murals on the walls of city buildings. Perhaps even for clockwork efficiency and train schedules that you can literally set your watch by. Or would that be going too far?
On the other hand, Robert the Bruce would have drooled at the thought of customs and immigration posts all along Hadrian's Wall (well, maybe a little bit north of it these days). Perhaps the 'Border Services' officers could even be issued with the lethal PX4 Storm sidearm – as they are now in Canada by agreement with a Conservative federal government. Saturday night matches between Glasgow Rangers and Berwick Rangers could get quite exciting.
More seriously though, I wonder if proper consideration has been given to independence outwith the EU. No parachutes from Brussels, no handouts from Strasbourg. Only an uncompromising commitment to developing Scotland's own brand, and in time its own reputation, for excellence. Talk about standing on your own feet.
Plenty of Scots within and without Scotland have done that over the centuries. We have a reputation for it. And today, on those western islands and northern lands that have shaken off the shackles of foreign and absentee ownership, we can find plenty of examples of the kind of visionary resourcefulness that some think has long been missing from Scotland's cities and so-called seats of corporate power.
What has it taken for people in places like Eigg, or Gigha, or Scalpay, in parts of Assynt and Mull and Laggan and Bute and West Harris to awaken from decades, even centuries of torpor? It has taken the opportunity to be self-reliant, just as it did for those Scots who pioneered the country where I now live. But none have ever done it any better than you'll see if you head for the Western Isles. Those people, over the last few years, and in numbers that might surprise you, have been nothing short of inspirational. The rest of the country should take note.
I was pleased to see Kenneth Roy paying another tribute to R F Mackenzie and his wonderful book 'A Search for Scotland' (22 November). I have never been so impressed by the huge range of knowledge R F Mackenzie was able to bring to bear on any topic he was discussing. Flora, fauna, geology, science, young people, ancient Greek history, you name it, and he brought all these things into the picture in such a supportive and appropriate way.
When Kenneth referred to his book a few weeks ago I decided to dig out at least one of the two copies I have, just to fan through it to remind me of the brilliance of the writing. I panicked when I couldn't find either and I immediately ordered a further copy from Amazon. I was lucky to find a copy and it cost me one cent plus postage. I was dismayed to see that prized object with such a low evaluation. I have not received the book yet but when I do I will consider it the greatest return I have ever had for the expenditure of one US penny.
The Cafe is our readers' forum. Send your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org