Thursday 20 September 2007

Does it matter what Borg thinks?

OK, so back to my thoughts on EU Commissioner Borg's thoughts on why Scotland would have to apply to join the EU.

To set this in context, this Commissioner is from the EU's smallest Member State, Malta. Malta has a population of 0.4 Million - roughly the size of Edinburgh and representing 0.1% of the EU's population. Mr Borg is a former Foreign Minister of Malta. Mr Borg is appointed by his Government to work in the interests of the EU as a Commissioner, and is responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, issues of vital importance to Scotland.

You would think, as someone who has come from the perspective of a very small nation in Europe which successfully acceeded to the EU, Mr Borg would be far less sceptical of the probability of Scotland's membership. It may have taken the accession countries some time to join, but many were coming from a very different position than that of Scotland for a number of historical reasons.

Scotland is already subject to EU laws and is a constituent part of an EU member state. There would not have any significant adjustments made to prepare for membership; we are in a sense already there. In addition, Scotland would is of significant value to the EU in terms of land mass, industry, oil and security. In reality, on what grounds could an independent Scotland see EU membership withheld or delayed?

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Busy times

Apologies for the lack of updates - I've been incredibly busy with surgeries, meetings, turning 25 and packing to move house on Friday.

It feels like I've hardly spent any time in the office for the past couple of weeks, as I've been out and about in my ward. It's good for people in the ward to see their representative, but not so good when that creates a backlog of casework. I may need two of me!

Anyway - more later on why this article in the Scotsman has wound me up, and some of what I've been up to since I last blogged...

Sunday 2 September 2007

Executive no more!

Very chuffed to read in the Sunday Herald, the Scotland on Sunday, the BBC's website that the "Executive" will now be the Government. I know some people in the SNP who don't believe it should be changed until Scotland has the full powers of a Government, but I think it's a step in the right direction. It might sound like semantics, but I think it's important for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the term "Executive" means nothing to ordinary people. The only people I hear referring to the "Executive" are public sector and voluntary agencies. So many folk - even intelligent people who really should know better - seem to think that "Executive" "Government" and "Parliament" are synonymous. Oddly, their confusion doesn't extend to Westminster - they wouldn't blame the Parliament there for something the Government has or hasn't done. While you could always pin the blame on the public for not taking an interest in their political system, my view is that the lack of vision and personality of the previous "Executive" has pretty much bored people into submission. A change in name and, more importantly, in attitude ought to help turn things around.

Secondly, renaming is a big decision - one Labour in London wouldn't let Henry McLeish (remember him?!) take. I think it's telling that the SNP Government has done so, and that there - at least so far - seems to be no move from Westminster to stop the change. Does the Labour Government in Westminster believe that to intervene would be unpopular or play directly into the SNP's hands? Are they playing a longer game? I'm not sure it matters - once we are called a Government, act like a Government, people will begin to demand the powers of a Government.

Lastly, it's a change that the Unionist parties in Scotland will have to take heed of - and a change they'll find it hard to reverse. We're in a period where they have to react to the SNP's agenda, and this is something they're finding it hard to do. Labour, for example, have shifted already from saying the Scottish Parliament shouldn't have any more powers, to saying they'll reconsider. The Tories are dead on their feet in Scotland - could a distinctively Scottish Conservative party change their fortunes. And the Liberals... well, they're increasingly irrelevant under their current leaderships. These three need to decide within their own party membership what the direction should be. Playing constitutional musical statues isn't going to work.

As for the SNP - we need to be careful not to lull ourselves into a false sense of security - we may now be the Government, but we're not yet the Government of an Independent Scotland.