Ive long been making the point that UKIP and euro skepticism is largely an English phenomenon. Yes, there are some euro-skeptics in Scotland (otherwise known as the Scottish Tory party 😀 ), but by and large only a tiny fraction (0.8% of the vote in the 2012 local elections to be exact) of Scots feel that leaving the EU would be in Scotlands best interests. Given the countrys large export industry (oil, whiskey, smoked salmon, meat, bagpipes, NEDS, dodgy bankers, Prime ministers ;D ) leaving the EU would be catastrophic to the Scottish economy.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage :crazy: got a stark reality check in this regard on Thursday, when he was mobbed by protesters in Edinburgh and ultimately forced to take refuge in a pub (whats with him and pubs?). Farage tried damage limitation via his tabloid allies by blaming the Scottish nationalists, even though the evidence points to the protestors actually being linked to lefty anti-racist university groups (which means, ironically enough, a lot of them would probably have been English born students!).
Of course predictably Farage (no doubt ignorant of Godwins law) promptly labelled the protestors fascists (he also cleverly implied flag burning, something the tabloids could then pick up and create the impression that a flag was burnt when in fact, no such action occurred although it was suggested that he might want to insert said emblem into his neither regions before heading south :)) ).
When confronted by the realities that his damage limitation spinning had backfired Farage actually hung up on a BBC Scotland radio interview, then called the BBC fascists also. As SNP leader Alex Salmond pointed out when he commented on the whole matter, it is clear that Farage exists in a fantasy right wing bubble and when it pops he, like so many in the US tea party, immediately goes into full fanatic birther mode and develop a nasty case of Nazi tourettes.
The auld alliance reborn?
The contrast between Scotland and England on Europe could not be starker. Indeed I would argue that major factor in any independence referendum defeat for the SNP will be the issue of EU membership and a lack of realism from the SNP.
I for one had always assumed that Scotland would have to apply for EU membership post-independence (as the Eastern Europe countries had to post-communism), but that as Scotland are already an EU member it would be fast tracked (but fast tracked in the EU still takes a few years!).
Of course given that there would inevitably be a lengthy period of negotiations on independence between Westminster & Hollyrood and a transition period to implement that, its likely that the period where Scotland was neither part of the UK nor an EU member state would be short (months to a year or two depending on how quickly the SNP negotiated with both Brussels and London).
Where I feel the SNP may have jumped the shark on Europe, is their failure to be realistic about these geopolitical facts of life. As well as a failure to accept that an independent Scotlands best course of action (for the moment) would be to set up its own currency and join the EU with that (euro membership being a matter to debate after the present Eurozone crisis is resolved). But the SNP have not made the case on these issues and shown themselves to be a bit unrealistic about the process and the timetable for achieving independence.
However, UKIP and the lurch to the eurosceptic extremes by the Tory party could present the SNP with an opportunity. For in the event of the UK…or more to the point England…leaving the EU and Scotland (possibly joined by Wales) looking to stay in, one simple solution would be for the EU to simply allow Scotland to either steal Englands seat, or enter as some sort of commonwealth of Ex-UK states ticket. Such a move, if the SNP can get the right noises out of Brussels, could easily tip the scales of the balance back in favour of a Yes vote in the 2014 vote.
This incidentally would mirror an incident in 2009 where Farage went walkabout in Ireland looking to join the No campaign on the Lisbon treaty. In the days after his visit opinion in favour of Lisbon actually increased! No doubt this was because many Irish concluded that if this bigoted right-wing upper class twit was against the EU…then we were in favour of it! Dick Roche (Irelands then Europe Minster) even cheekly congratulated Farage for helping out with the Yes vote!
And speaking of jumped sharks
And if we can accuse the SNP of being a tad unrealistic about independence, they pale into insignificance next to the ridiculous naive fantasies we hear coming out of Farage and David Camerons mouths, notably on Europe.
Camerons policy seem to be a belief that after the next election, he and Farage can burst into the EU chambers in Strasbourg holding a gun to everyone and scream who do we have to fu%k to get out of this joint!…of course what will actually happen is the other EU leaders will sit him down and start to talk…then talk…then talk some more…until 6 years later hes gotten them down to an agreement that the European Human rights act will be altered such that they can build a giant supergun on the white cliffs and fire Qatada back in the general direction of Jordan in return for which he abolishes the UKs rebate…and renames Trafalgar square Place de Mitterrand ;))
The idea that the Tories could re-negotiate an entire membership treaty with the EU in just 2 years is so dumb and divorced from reality it seems difficult to believe its actually now being debated in parliament. And even if it were to succeed it would likely play right into the hands of EU Federalists, who would like nothing better than to downgrade the UKs EU membership status (or get the UK to leave altogether).
I mean what does Farage do over in the EU? (he is supposed to be an MEP…or something..). Dont you think hed at least have worked out by now how things work? Or is he still struggling to get a taxi from Brussels airport (the British policy of talking loudly to foreigners in English doesnt really work in Brussels, I know, Ive tried!).
And as Ive discussed before on this topic, EU membership is not an al-a-carte menu. Many other EU states want changes to the EU. The French & Germans what more integration, the smaller countries (such as Ireland) want a greater distribution of powers (at the expense of larger nations like the UK), the Eastern Europeans what a more even distribution of EU funds (it is grossly unfair that a relatively prosperous EU member like the UK gets a rebate and Poland or Romania do not). As we Irish have learnt (when weve been forced to renegotiate EU treaties) getting the slightest change out of Brussels is teeth pullingly difficult, painful and time consuming, largely as it involves getting multiple governments to agree to it (of course the same thing applies in the WTO, UN, NATO or any other international organization). Cameron will come back from Brussels in 2017 with his tail between his legs, simple as that.
But either way what Farages Scottish adventure proves is that the UK will pay a heavy price for his policies on Europe. And as Ive long argued, the first part of that price will be the UK itself.
And even if the Tories dodge the bullet in 2014, remember that if the vote is tight, come Camerons referendum in 2017 (if that even happens) the Scottish question will re-emerge, as the SNP will no doubt argue that Scotland cannot be dragged kicking and screaming out of the EU by English euro-skeptics. i.e. they may insist (as might the EU) that any in/out referendum in the UK is done on a regional basis, something that will almost certainly lead to the breakup of the Union.
…and the lesson
And this wee Scottish tale also shows us the realities of UKIP. It is with good reason I compare them to the Tea Party. They are a party of loud mouth right wing fantasists who go around in some sort of public school boy bubble oblivious to the realities of geopolitics or even the internal politics of the UK.
When this bubble bursts (as it did yesterday for Farage) rather than accept they might be wrong, they perform various feats of mental gymnastics to create a new fantasy to replace it (that the mostly English students lefty students who were heckling him were nazi Scottish nationalists burning English flags, when the Beeb pointed out this was not so and how tiny his support was in Scotland, they became nazis too apparently).
And Alex Salmond is wrong when he says Farage has lost the plot. The truth is, Farage never had the plot to begin with.