Monday, 4 February 2008
Scotland in Europe
Scotland's trading links with other European countries were many and varied as the following extracts show -
'From Haddington on 11 October  the two [William Wallace and Andrew Murray] wrote to the mayors and communes of Lubeck and Hamburg. The letter had a double intention. It informed the readers that Scotland, an independent kingdom again, had been won back by battle from the English. It was at the same time in the nature of the reopening of those Scottish trading connections with Germany which had been a feature of the reign of Alexander III.'
Source: 'WILLIAM WALLACE' by Andrew Fisher, pp. 118-119, ISBN 0 85976 557 1.
'There was a good deal of trade with England, largely by sea with east coast ports. The proximity of English markets became so attractive as to nullify the effects both of political hostility and of legislation designed to keep Scottish raw materials at home and encourage native manufactures; Scottish wool was always welcome in England, and English cloth welcome in Scotland. This was plain in the sixteenth century...To France went wool, cloth and salt fish, in return for wines from Gascony and various delicacies and luxury articles. The Low Countries were early established as the chief outlet for Scottish exports. By 1296 the Flemings had a depot in their Red Hall in Berwick, and from the next century a port in the Netherlands - Middelburg, Bruges or Veere - was the Scottish 'staple', through which the principal exports passed and where a 'conservator of Scottish privileges in Flanders', appointed by the Scottish crown, guarded the goods and interests of Scottish merchants. To the Low Countries the Scots sent wool, skins and hides, and later coal, salt, cloth, stockings and herring, in return for spices and clothing. German merchants had their Scottish headquarters in the White Hall at Berwick in the thirteenth century, and when Wallace liberated Scotland in 1297 he wrote to Lubeck and Hamburg telling them that they could resume their trade. That there was already commerce with Norway is indicated by a clause in the treaty of 1266 [Treaty of Perth]; in later times corn (in time of plenty), cloth, skins, coal, salt and fish went to Scandinavia and the Baltic in return for corn (in time of dearth), iron and prodigious quantities of timber. By the end of the Middle Ages wine was coming from Spain as well as France.'
Source: 'Scotland: The Shaping of a Nation' by Gordon Donaldson, pp. 203-204, ISBN 0 7153 6904 0.
Scotland also has other historical connections with mainland Europe which include the military service of Scots either as mercenaries or in an official capacity. In the 16th and 17th centuries Scots fought for Sweden, Poland, Germany, Russia and the Netherlands. There was a Scots Brigade in the Netherlands during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701 - 1714). Scots fought in the armies of Gustav Adolphus of Sweden during the Thirty Years War (1618 -1648). Military service to the kings of France was established in 1295 by the French Alliance which lasted until 1560 and became known to Scots as the 'Auld Alliance'. In the 17th century Peter the Great hired General Patrick Gordon, from Aberdeen, to lead the Russian army. During the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939) Scots were part of the 15th International Brigade. They fought in defence of the Republican government against the Fascist forces of General Franco. Two notable Scots who became well known for their military service overseas are Samuel Greig and John Paul Jones (Father of the United States navy). Born in 1735 Samuel Greig achieved fame in the navy of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. He bacame famous for his role in the Battle of Chesme Bay in 1770 against the Turkish fleet. In 1782 she appointed him a full Admiral. His last battle was against the Swedish fleet in the Baltic Sea in July 1788. Catherine the Great bestowed on Greig the Russian Order of St. Andrew but later that year he died on board his ship 'The Rostislav' and was given a state funeral by her, his mausoleum is in Tallin, Estonia. In 1998 a contingent of 60 sailors from the Russian navy presented a memorial tablet to the hometown of Admiral Samuel Greig, Inverkeithing in Fife. John Paul Jones (born as John Paul he added the Jones later), born near Kirkudbright in Galloway in 1747, was also invited to join the Russian navy following the reputation he gained during the American Revolution ("I have not yet begun to fight"). He was made a Rear-Admiral in the Russian navy and defeated the Turkish fleet in the Black Sea in 1788.
In 1975 the Scottish National Party (SNP) campaigned for a 'No' vote in a referendum on continued membership of the European Economic Community (EEC). This was based on the premise that Scotland should not be forced to join the EEC as part of a member state that was originally created through the Treaty of Union of 1707 rather than opposition to the EEC on any grounds. At its annual conference in 1983 the SNP adopted a pro-EEC stance, then at the 1988 annual conference the policy of 'Independence in Europe' was adopted.
Scotland became part of the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1973 by virtue of the accession of the United Kingdom (to use the abbreviation of the formal name - United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) to the Treaty of Rome (1957). The first direct elections to the European Parliament were held in 1979 in which Scotland returned 8 Members of the European Parliament (MEP's), one of whom was Winnie Ewing (SNP). Such was her impact that she earned the nickname "Madame Ecosse", Winnie retired as an MEP in 2003. Until 2004 those elections were conducted in the UK using the First Past The Post (FPTP - Simple Majority) method of voting. In 2004 the number of MEP's returned was reduced to 7 and in June 2009 it will further be reduced to 6 (at present Scotland has 2 SNP MEP's). Following the Treaty of Lisbon the European Parliament will have up to 750 elected members with each member state having a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 96 MEP's. These numbers are apportioned to member states on degressive proportionality, which means that that while the size of the population is taken into account smaller states will elect more MEP's than would be strictly justified by their population alone, however, it is up to the individual member state to determine how seats are allocated but they may not be divided up in a way which would no longer be proportional. Throughout the European Union the Parliaments constituencies are formed on a member state basis, however, there are 6 member states in which this is not the case and their national territory is sub-divided into European constituencies, they are - Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom. In 2009 Denmark, with a population of 5.42 million, Slovakia, with a population of 5.28 million, and Finland, with a population of 5.25 million, will each get 13 MEP's, Ireland, with a population of 4.21 million, will get 12 MEP's, however tiny Luxembourg, with a population of 460,000 will get 6 MEP's. What these figures show is that Scotland, with a population of about 5.1 million and which will only have 6 MEP's in 2009, is effectively penalized for being part of a larger member state.
Decision making in the European Union (EU) is a complex matter as various institutions of the EU are involved, such as the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers) and the European Commission. Although the Parliament has the right to initiate legislation it can only do so by asking the Commission to submit a proposal. Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) is used in the Council of Ministers and is a mechanism which prevents the fewer but much larger member states from being able to impose their wishes on the smaller member states. Currently about 75% of the votes of Council members are required for a proposal to be passed. From 2014 Qualified Majority Voting will be based on the principle of the double majority, that is 55% of member states representing at least 65% of of the EU population, a blocking minority must consist of at least four member states to make it impossible for a small number of the more populous member states to prevent a decision from being adopted. Irrespective of this there is, however, a problem where Scotland's interests are concerned, particularly in the deep-sea fishing industry. Representation in the Council of Ministers is restricted to the official delegations from the member states, which as far as Scotland is currently concerned is the United Kingdom. Tiny land-locked Luxembourg is a member state, has a population less than Edinburgh, has no fishing fleet but has the power to influence decisions that could have a significant impact on the fishing industry in Scotland.
The following is an extract from the preface by Nelly Maes, President of the European Free Alliance (EFA), to the book 'European Free Alliance: Voice of the peoples of Europe - The first 25 years (1981 - 2006)' -
'"The EFA seeks to confine to the history books all injustice with regard to languages and communities minorities and stateless nations."
A European Union that merely recognises the rights of states cannot lead to true democracy and lasting peace. The denial of the rights of peoples and regions, of their language and culture and of their right to self-determination remains a source of frustration and dispute in many European states and abroad.
On the other hand, the narrow-mindedness and self-interest of the member states are preventing Europe from becoming a true champion of human rights, development and peace on a global scale.
Free peoples who can experience their own identity as a nation, a region or language community and who work together to create the democratic institutions that shape the European Union politically: that is the dream of the European Free Alliance.
We want to realise this dream through peaceful and democratic political action rather than resorting to violence. We do not aspire to a centralised European super state, but neither will we be satisfied with a European Union that only exists as a market and that stands divided and impotent when human rights and international law are being violated, or when poverty, war and environmental disasters threaten the lives of millions. Neither will we accept a European Union that looks down on small countries and constitutional regions while allowing the larger member states or the economic and military superpowers to dictate the law.'
There are now thirty political parties (including the SNP since 1989) throughout Europe which are currently members of the European Free Alliance. At a meeting in Edinburgh in January 2008 a joint EFA declaration was made demanding the recognition of internal enlargement. Internal enlargement is the process by which non-state nations within the EU will be granted full membership status once they have achieved independence.