A distinctive feature of the EU referendum debate in Scotland is that … there isn’t one.

All five political parties are campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote, even though polls show about a third of Scots voters are Euro sceptic.

Last week I heard five party spokespeople at an election hustings competing to outdo themselves in their support for “Vote Remain”.

Was it really just two years ago that of those five party stalwarts for the EU, two were campaigning for Scottish independence and three were championing greater devolution from Westminster?

What happened to those ringing declarations about Scotland unbound by the shackles of union and free to choose its destiny in the wider world?

This is Reverse Ferret meets George Orwell: more EU integration Good, more UK integration Bad!

The “debate” on the pros and cons of EU membership in Scotland is now almost entirely refracted through the prism of a second independence referendum.

But Scots voters leaning towards a vote for exit are denied a voice in a political system that claims to be sympathetic to minorities.

Little wonder Scotland’s farmers and fishermen are forced to campaign outside the normal processes of parliament for their voices to be heard.
This is not good for Scotland.

Scotland’s fishermen have long had big problems with the EU over issues ranging from quotas to discards.

They protest at the unfairness of a system that bears down on small operators while giant factory ships continue to hoover up fishing stocks. A Dutch super-trawler, the Cornelius Vrolijk, gets 23 per cent of the UK fishing quota, with a typical 2,500-ton catch.

Small fishermen struggle to survive on the pittance they earn from the fish they are permitted to keep, with crews forced on many trips to throw back far more of their catch than they land.

Many are being forced to abandon a way of life followed by families for generations. The number of British fishing boats has fallen by more than a quarter in two decades.

The blame for this lies not with the owners of the Dutch trawler but officials in Brussels and politicians in Westminster who created a market rigged against small players - one wasting vast quantities of fish and threatening traditional fishing communities.

At the root of the problem is the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), condemned as “the most dysfunctional of all EU policies” by the Open Europe think-tank. It is based on fishing quotas, doled out to countries and based on historic claims of catch sizes.

When Britain negotiated entry to Europe, it got a poor deal that allowed French fleets, for instance, to take a far larger slice of stocks in the Channel. Small-scale vessels did not have to record landings at the time.

Thus, although making up more than three-quarters of the British fishing fleet, they were belatedly given just four per cent of the national quota.

New rules introduced eight years ago then brought stricter monitoring of catches. The reforms also mean all discard fish must be landed, soaking up quotas faster.

Leaving the EU would free the U.K. from significant volumes of EU-related regulation and its associated economic costs. Much regulation is directed at imposing EU harmonisation to remove inconsistent or excessive regulation in other parts of the EU - Italy, Poland, Greece, etc. But the EU is notorious for the slow pace at which it can reverse course.

Even when EU and UK regulation would be identical, Britain would find it much easier to reverse a policy mistake if it could act alone.

The “Remain” argument, of course, points to the grants and subventions that areas such as Scotland enjoy from the EU. But the UK’s annual net contribution to the EU after these disbursements comes to around £10 billion - money better used to cut bureaucratic costs, direct regional support more productively and use agricultural support to keep U.K. food prices down.

There is a world of difference between inter-governmental agreements that can be negotiated and supra-national institutions with decisions enforced. That’s the key difference between those for BREXIT and the Remainers with their unfortunate acronym - “EURIN”.

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  Comments: 2

  1. Cher Bill.
    Just returned from the ‘gunboat’ fishing grounds of South East Asia - an even more contentious political arena than with EU currently - to find your Brexit case developing in that direction . I wonder if you have further Cornelius V info re their percentage catch of their own Dutch quota last year , and EU Fishing quota overall ? Our UK including Scottish fishing industry has become a sorry shadow of reCommon Market size - but if I remember , many of our east coast gallant trawler owners sold their souls (and quotas) to the Spanish for a quick buck or peseta back in the 70s , and 18 yr old trawler hands from Buckie were buying the latest BMW sports cars with one trips’ share of landings in lieu of accepting our wisdom of regular (or even one-off !) investment saving plans ; thus losing some sympathy in the longer turn of events . Some of the ex-pat community in Bangkok seemed to favour Brexit interestingly .. I could only add that we were in for considerably more erroneous or heavily biased arguments from BOTH sides 👺before the June finishing line is crossed. Very best wishes. Bobby

  2. Robert McDowell

    Hypocrisy is a natural state. Today is the day chosen for Scotland’s Declaration of Independence - 18 months after the referendum. If UK vote for Brexit the date for a similar Independence Declaration by the UK will not be about 3 years from now. Why is the latter so complex and the former was believed to be simpler? Scotland is only 8% of the UK political-economy. UK is 15% of the EU political-economy.

    In the face of Internationalism’s complex mix of cooperation and competition, of cross border Reiving, but also agreements and compromises and also the only way of try to solve many cross-border and global problems, it is not surprising a third of electorates are in instinctive revolt - subscribing to “Sinn Fein”, the meaning of which is We Ourselves Alone!

    The UK in its history has imposed itself on the rest of the world much as the USA above all is blamed for doing so since. but, among its worst acts could be to fatally damage the internationalism of the EU, the world’s leading example of internationalism the best thing that emerged from the wreckage of World War II.

    Children have a strong sense of wrong they experience but it takes a lifetime to learn the wrong we can do to others. If UK votes for Brexit it will reveal its political immaturity and refusal to grow up. The same may be said of Scottish Nationalism.

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