Salmond Takes Stirling by Storm
Jamie Grant – SUSNA Campaigns Manager
Thursday 2nd February saw the Stirling University Scottish Nationalist Association (SUSNA) host the SNP International Affairs spokesperson of the House of Commons, the MP for Gordon Alex Salmond. Distributing well over three-hundred tickets, the lecture theatre was packed to the rafters as party members, students and members of the public took their seats to hear Salmond’s take on Brexit, and the direction the SNP would see the UK government take.
Elaborating on the very military victory Stirling is famous for, Salmond opened the talk reminding the audience of the first actions William Wallace and Andrew Moray took upon their surprise victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge – they penned the now famous Lübeck letter, firmly enshrining Scotland’s trading relationship with Europe as an immediate priority and highlighting the clear link between Scotland and Europe’s prosperity.
Over one thousand years of trading history with the mainland European continent has grown to define Scotland, cementing our place within Europe as an outward-facing and open country, ready for business. Salmond iterated the importance of this relationship to Scotland’s economy, and the tens of thousands of jobs upon whom depend on Scotland’s continuing membership to the Single Market.
At present, the current Conservative government appears set to discard the UK’s membership of the Custom’s Union, and the Single Market, in favour of independently negotiated trade-deals – deals which we neither have the expertise to navigate ourselves, necessitating the wholesale hiring of experts from beyond these shores, or the political capital to expend on lengthy negotiations.
Salmond mused that Theresa May’s visit to newly elected US President Donald Trump indicated the future trajectory of the UK post-Brexit, forced to choose between economic realities and the very moral values on which the UK lies. Surmising from his personal experience dealing with the Donald, Alex Salmond repeated time and time again – ‘You do not make a deal with Donald Trump from a position of weakness’.
With attitudes on the continent hardening in the wake of May’s blustering diplomacy post-Brexit, it would appear that a favourable and snappy trade-deal with the US is exactly the remedy this Conservative government is hoping for. The prying open of UK domestic healthcare markets, as well as the wholesale relaxing of food regulations to allow US produce a larger market share does not sound like ‘Taking Back Control’ in the slightest.
A common theme of frustration ran through the talk; at the UK government for rejecting Nicola Sturgeon’s pleas to retain Single Market membership for the UK; at the apparent double-standard at play over the UK government’s White Paper for Brexit – ‘not even thick enough to stop a door!’ – when compared to the relentless scrutiny the SNP’s own White Paper for Independence received; deep anger and resentment over the UK’s dismissal of the expressed will of the majority of voters in Scotland.
Even more scrutiny was heaped on the UK government’s predicted response to the second compromise agreement proposed by Sturgeon – that Scotland is allowed to retain access to the Single Market, along with the freedoms of movement, labour and services that pertains to such arrangements. Citing the curious situation of Liechtenstein, Salmond claimed that such an arrangement, based on the UK adopting a greencard-based immigration system without a hard border, would immensely benefit Scotland’s economy and advantage over her neighbours. Later Q&A questions would yield further thoughts on this matter, with it pointed out that Scotland remains England’s second-largest trading partner – economic policy of the UK government towards future Scottish constitutional matters would have to bear that in mind.
Fisheries were briefly mentioned, a sore spot among some SNP voters with connections to the industry. The Common Fisheries Policy drew ire from audience members and Salmond alike, yet Alex evoked a 1970s leaked UK government memo, referring to Scotland’s fisheries, and the predicted 4,000 job losses pertaining to CFP membership, as ‘expendable’. Salmond’s point rang true in the air – that Scotland deserved a government that didn’t treat vital areas as expendable, and that the blame for any pain suffered through the CFP was down to the UK government negotiating at Scotland’s expense.
Overall, this remained a visit and speech to remember. The SNP continue to propose amendments in the ongoing Brexit legislative process to protect Scotland’s interest. With each passing week, sentiment in the EU, and in the populations on the continent, grow more sympathetic of Scotland’s challenges and position, and grow increasingly weary of the United Kingdom’s negotiating tactics. The dominoes are lining up; increasingly, at home and abroad, the question of independence for Scotland is framed not as ‘if’, but ‘when’.