Alistair Carmichael – 2019 Speech on the UK Fishing Industry

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, in the House of Commons on 8 April 2019.

We are considering the matter of visas for non-European economic area citizens working in the UK fishing industry—sadly, not for the first time. In fact, I last brought this matter before the House on 11 July. Others have led Adjournment debates on the same topic on different occasions. It has been raised on multiple occasions at Home Office questions, most recently by me. Sadly, now, here at the beginning of April, we are no further forward.

I will not rehearse the arguments around the necessity for our fishing skippers to be able to employ crew from outside the European Union or the EEA. I suspect that that has been done to death. If we were going to win the argument by raising the issues, we would have won it long ago.

Tonight, I will gently remind the Minister of a couple of things that she told the House in July. I invite her, when she speaks, to give us something of a progress report. I will then consider the content of the Migration Advisory Committee report from September of last year which, according to the Minister when I last raised this with her, is now the basis on which the Government seek to resist the fairly sensible and, I would have thought, uncontroversial measures that we seek to have introduced.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

I commend the right hon. Gentleman for his fortitude in this issue. The Minister, too, knows the reasons why we are discussing it. Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that highly skilled fishermen from the Philippines, for example, and other countries must have streamlined access to this incredibly dangerous profession? Does he agree that the future of our fishing sector depends on it?

Mr Carmichael

I do agree, and I thank the hon. Gentleman not only for his assiduous attendance at these debates and at other meetings but for his use of the term “highly skilled” fishing crews. Those who go to sea to bring the fish home to put on our plates are highly skilled. The root of the problem is in essence one of attitude, which somehow classes those brave, hard-working men as low skilled. Yes, I agree with him.

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the problem seems to be that when skill is defined, it is always still defined in academic terms? Actually, skill is an inherent ability that someone has to do a task, not necessarily academic at all.

Mr Speaker

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Act 2019

European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019.

On resuming—​

Mr Carmichael

I am sure we will all sleep better for that—especially knowing that Her Majesty will now be in a position to give her full attention to the matter of visas for fishing crews.

I cannot now remember the point that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) made, beyond the fact that I certainly agreed with it. [Interruption.] It was about academia—indeed. It is worth noting that those who serve on the Migration Advisory Committee and those who have been Ministers are all very learned people. I have long held the view that if we sent some of them out in fishing boats, and if we had more skippers in ministerial offices and in the Migration Advisory Committee, the problem would be solved next Tuesday.

David Duguid (Banff and Buchan) (Con)

This is a similar point to the one that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) just made. It is often argued that the crew members who are much sought after in the Scottish fishing industry and in Northern Ireland are often regarded as low skilled. We can argue about whether they are high skilled or low skilled, but does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we have a shortage of those very specific skills?

Mr Carmichael

That is absolutely the case. If the crews could be found in the fishing ports that the hon. Gentleman and I represent, we would not be here tonight because there would not be a problem. The fact is that for a whole variety of reasons, which have been rehearsed in the past, the crews are not there. It is difficult for the pelagic fleet and the whitefish fleet, because it pushes them out beyond territorial waters, but it makes the viability of the inshore fleet, which routinely fishes within the 12 mile limit, next to impossible.

I remind the Minister that, in July last year, she said:

“I recognise that the fishing industry will be best placed to take advantage of those future opportunities”—

that is how she earlier described the post-Brexit situation—

“if it has the workforce that it needs.”

It is manifestly still the case today, as I can see from my mailbag and email inbox, that the industry does not have the workforce it needs. The fact that there are so many hon. Members in the Chamber tonight at gone 11 o’clock bears further testimony to that.

The Minister went on to say:

“Two key points will be to the fore when we consider the industry’s future labour needs. First, as we leave the European Union, we will take back control of immigration and have an opportunity to reframe the immigration system…In making sure that that happens, we will need the best evidence available, which is why we have commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to report on the economic and social impacts of the UK’s departure from the EU and on how the UK’s immigration policy should best align with the Government’s industrial strategy. The committee will report in the autumn, and the Government will take full account of its recommendations when setting out their proposals for the future immigration system.”—Official Report, 11 July 2018; Vol. 644, c. 1082.]

She went on to acknowledge the case that many of us made about the urgency of the matter—it was urgent in July last year.

I now wish to turn the House’s attention to the Migration Advisory Committee’s report of last September. The section entitled “Productivity, innovation, investment ​and training impacts” on page 2 of the executive summary includes an interesting paragraph—paragraph 14—which states:

“The research we commissioned showed that overall there is no evidence that migration has had a negative impact on the training of the UK-born workforce. Moreover, there is some evidence to suggest that skilled migrants have a positive impact on the quantity of training available to the UK-born workforce.”

That is a very small point, but I mention it because in the debate in July several hon. Members said that there was a real problem with the training available, and that it was because of that that we had had to resort, in the short to medium term, to bringing in non-EEA nationals.

One of the most disappointing parts of the committee’s report is that headed “Community impacts”, which is to be found on page 4 of the executive summary. It rates only nine lines, and the related part in the full report runs to some five pages only, most of which comprises graphs. It speaks about some of the issues, which the committee identifies as community impacts, and states:

“The impacts of migration on communities are hard to measure owing to their subjective nature which means there is a risk they are ignored.”

However, it goes on to talk about some things—for example, the impact on crime and on how people view their own communities—but there is not a word in that part about population levels, which is absolutely critical in most island and coastal communities to which the fishing industry is confined. There is nothing to be found about the fact that the inability of boats to go to sea has a massive impact on the shore-side industries, which in turn has a massive impact on the viability of schools, post offices and all sorts of local public services.

Bill Grant (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Con)

Following on from that aspect, the Department’s assumption that vessels can simply be crewed by locals is indeed just not true: it cannot be done. We must have a visa system that attracts multi-skilled individuals from beyond these shores and beyond the EEA to ensure we have a fully crewed fishing fleet to do the work required of it.

Mr Carmichael

That is the other reason why I thought I would not bother rehearsing the arguments—I anticipated plenty of people doing so in the Chamber this evening. The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point, and I congratulate him on it. It is one I have made in the past, as have other hon. Members. It is as true today as it was in July, and it all contributes to my and my constituents’ sense of frustration that now, getting into the middle of April, we are still no further forward.

Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)

When the right hon. Gentleman held a debate last July, England was losing a World cup semi-final. I am pleased to say that the football fortunes are better this time, with Scotland’s women beating Brazil 1-0 tonight, so I congratulate him on any link there.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with me that there is a simple solution? Previously, we had a scheme that allowed non-EEA workers to work within the fishing industry. It was successful, and it did what it was intended to do. There is a simple solution for the Minister, which is to stand up at the Dispatch Box and say we will revert back to that scheme.

Mr Carmichael

That has perfect simplicity. I will not get into a conversation, with the hon. Gentleman in particular, on the subject of football—there are very few people in this House who know less about the subject than I do—but he brings welcome news to the House. The point about the previous system is a good one because it also has a bearing on the conclusions of the Migration Advisory Committee about what they describe, I think pejoratively, as “low-skilled workers”.

To quote from the executive summary again—I will look in a bit more detail at the substantive parts of the report in a second—at paragraph 36 on page 5, the committee states:

“We do not recommend an explicit work migration route for low-skilled workers with the possible exception of a seasonal agricultural workers schemes.”

In fact, such a scheme has subsequently, however inadequately, been introduced. It observes, quite drily:

“This is likely to be strongly opposed by the affected sectors.”

It goes on to say at paragraph 37:

“If there is to be a route for low-skilled migrant workers we recommend using an expanded youth mobility scheme rather than employer-led sector-based routes.”

This is quite telling about the work of the Migration Advisory Committee, because it seems to be suggesting, when looking at sector-based routes, that it rejects such a route because those coming to the UK for these, as it calls them, low-skilled jobs, should then be able to move from sector to sector. It is ridiculous: the idea that somebody is going to come from the Philippines to work in a whitefish or pelagic boat out of Lerwick, and then go and take a job in a bar or picking fruit or whatever, just shows how divorced it is from the reality of what it has been charged with considering. But probably the most insulting part of this piece of work is the reference to youth mobility and a cultural exchange scheme for people aged 18 to 30 from a number of listed participating countries.

Hugh Gaffney (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the fishing industry should be appealing to people on a career basis, but that, in the meantime, the Scottish fishing industry needs non-EEA fishermen, and the Government must recognise that and play their part?

Mr Carmichael

That is absolutely the case. It is going to take a long time to get back to having fishing as a career, because the fishing industry has been talked down by teachers, career advisers and the rest for years now. I understand the reasons for that, but I think they are misplaced. It will be a long time before we change that attitude—and it is attitude that is behind this.

Dr Whitford

Is that not an issue when, particularly up and down the west coast, where inshore fishing is hit, we have skippers who own boats and therefore should be really successful but are not at sea because they cannot get crew?

Mr Carmichael

Indeed. They cannot get crew, so they cannot land fish, which affects jobs in the processing sector. There is a ripple impact, which affects everyone from the shoreside suppliers right the way down the line.​

Returning to the youth mobility scheme, the Migration Advisory Committee concludes, at paragraph 7.53 on page 118:

“If the Government does want to provide a safety valve for the employers of low-skilled workers then an expanded Youth Mobility route could potentially provide a good option. The benefits of this option are that younger migrants are more likely to be net fiscal contributors (because the scheme does not allow dependants) and workers have freedom of movement between employers, which is likely to reduce the risk that employers will use migrants’ visa status to hold down their wages.”

So, according to the Migration Advisory Committee, the answer to the crew shortages in our fishing ports is to crew boats using New Zealanders and Australians on a gap year. I just wonder what world these people live in. That is insulting, and it is not just an insult from the Migration Advisory Committee; since the Minister and her colleagues rely on the report as the basis for continuing to refuse the most modest and common-sense proposal, it is an insult from those on the Treasury Bench themselves.

My plea to the Minister is simple. We have made this case time without number. Will she now please start to listen?

Alistair Carmichael – 2014 Speech at All Energy Conference

alistaircarmichael

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Carmichael, the then Scottish Secretary, in Aberdeen, Scotland, on 21 May 2014.

It’s a pleasure to be here today at the start of the All Energy Conference.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get together at the UK’s largest renewable energy gathering – to share experiences, see new technologies and celebrate the success of this ever-growing industry.

Because as we all know Scotland is fast becoming a world energy hub – not just in oil and gas, but in renewables too.

Scottish renewables are now providing enough electricity to meet roughly 40% of Scotland’s consumption. A third of all renewable generation in the UK is now in Scotland.

The latest figures show that between the third quarter of 2012 and the third quarter of 2013, renewable electricity generation is up 20% on the previous 12 months.

Together we are now around half way to our ambition of meeting 30% of the UK’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020.

And our prediction is that with the framework we are putting in place, we’ll do even better than 30%.

Investment

Between January 2010 and February 2014, we saw private sector investment in large scale UK renewable electricity projects exceed £34 billion. This investment supports over 37,000 jobs.

Over £14 billion of this is in Scotland, supporting around 12,000 jobs, here at home.

And our reform of the Electricity Market will ensure the UK remains a leading destination for investment in the electricity sector and could support as many as 25,000 jobs in the power sector in the UK.

This record is in stark contrast with the rest of Europe, where renewables investment halved between 2012 and 2013.

The UK Government is committed to supporting and investing in our renewables technology to make sure that we retain our position as Europe’s renewable investment hotspot.

Projects such as the Dorenell Wind Farm in Moray which is estimated will generate at least £93 million in direct benefits for the Scottish economy.

And The Speyside Biomass Combined Heat and Power Plant at the Macallan Distillery, which would represent an inward investment of £60 million to the local area.

I am delighted to confirm today that the Eskdalemuir Working Group has progressed very well. Through constructive discussions, the MoD’s concerns on wind farm development have been met and opposition to the project will be removed, opening up extra capacity for renewables deployment.

Renewable potential

And for the first time we have created a tailored strike price for Scottish Islands which will help to unlock their renewable potential as cost effectively as possible, and increase the likelihood of a number of Scottish offshore wind projects coming forward.

As MP for Orkney and the Shetlands I can tell you that enthusiasm for exploiting renewables potential on the islands is very high.

The UK Government is currently in talks with Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles ‘our islands out future’ campaign in recognition of their incredible potential and to overcome obstacles to development.

This whole positive picture, right across Scotland is down to your hard work – and collaboration.

The Energy Act 2013 – supported by all parties in the UK Parliament: Labour and SNP as well as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has put in place the legal, financial and political framework that is designed to last.

Not just for the next few years, but it reaches out ten, twenty, thirty years into the future. Certainty, stability, predictability.

Going green

By creating the world’s first low carbon electricity market, we are going green at the lowest cost.

Demonstrating that carbon reduction and economic growth can go hand in hand.

Let me be crystal clear, the government’s commitment to renewables as part of our diverse energy mix is undiminished.

But to succeed we need to keep showing that this vision of a competitive low carbon market isn’t an ideological, or even just an environmental one. We can keep energy bills as low as possible as we decarbonise.

We need to provide certainty, stability and fair returns for investors, generators and suppliers

So the positive case for Scotland’s energy future in the UK is the protection of the integrated market. Sharing support, sharing benefits and sharing costs.

Scottish renewables, just like renewables in other parts of the UK, are an integral part of our vision for a low carbon future.

Investment, consent, construction and generation.

Scotland – a world-leading renewables hub. The United Kingdom – the best place to do business.

Alistair Carmichael – 2014 Speech on Higher Education

alistaircarmichael

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Carmichael at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland on 29th January 2014.

Thank you Charlie for that introduction, and for handing me the task of keeping our audience invigorated immediately after lunch.

I am delighted to be able to join you today to speak about what is, by any measure, a Scottish success story.

In Scottish higher education, we have a sector that enjoys an international reputation for excellence. A sector that punches above its weight on research.

And a sector that is currently teaching record numbers of students.

Earlier this month, figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Authority showed that in 2012/13 the number of qualifiers in Scotland was up.

The proportion of students obtaining a first or second class degree is higher in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. And we have a higher proportion of women qualifying in science and technology.

The future

But it is to the future that we must look – a bright future if our current world rankings are anything to go by.

Five Scottish Universities rank in the latest top 200. The UK as a whole excels in academic excellence.

We are ranked second only to the United States. in terms of world-class research.

The UK’s share of the world’s top 1 per cent most cited publications is on an upward trend.

And in 2013 the UK was ranked third in the world for innovation in the Global Innovation Index.

UK-wide research

There are many reasons for this success – but one that is absolutely fundamental is the highly integrated research environment in which our universities and higher education institutions can operate.

This integration ensures a coherent and strategic approach to research activity in a common research area.

It allows funding, ideas and people to flow unhindered across the UK in pursuit of research excellence.

And that is of benefit to us all. A benefit that comes from being part of a United Kingdom.

And that is where I want to focus my comments today.

For too long there has been the simplistic assumption of devolved and reserved.

Devolved – for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government alone. Reserved for the UK Parliament and UK Government.

But the reality is much more complex than that.

Whilst policy responsibility resides either north or south of the border, we all continue to work within a shared common framework.

And perhaps nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than higher education and research.

Last year I published a paper in our Scotland analysis series with the Minister for Universities and Science, that examined the contribution Scotland makes to our UK-wide research framework, and the benefits that Scotland gets as a result.

As part of the UK we are able to share the costs and risks of research, funding it from a large and diverse tax base to make research more affordable.

As we set out in that paper, in 2010 the UK Government allocated £1.9 billion for science and research capital for the period 2011-15.

And since then we’ve allocated an additional £1.5 billion funding for science and innovation capital.

Research councils

We’ve got a network of seven Research Councils operating across the UK providing a clear strategic overview of all research disciplines.

This network minimises duplication and overlap in institutions maximizing our ability to make new and innovative discoveries, and to go on to turn these discoveries into the next miracle cures of the future.

A shared set of policy guidelines, rules and regulatory arrangements provide a consistent grounding for research excellence and a shared framework on which research collaborations can be built.

And it’s not just at home that we invest.

Through our Embassies and consulates we have a Science and Innovation network in 29 different countries to help extend the reach of the UK’s research base.

Here in Scotland we’ve grasped the nettle to make the most of this UK-network.

In 2012-13, Scotland secured £257 million of research grant funding from the UK Research Councils.

This amounts to 13% of the funding available, all for a country which has 8.4% of the UK population.

Higher Education Research and Development figures for 2011 show that Scottish Higher Education Institute spent £953 million. This is the equivalent to approximately £180 per head of population in Scotland compared with £112 across the UK as a whole.

The point that I make is that we don’t get access to this despite being part of the UK, we get it because we are part of the UK.

So the questions we need to ask ourselves are:

How would an independent Scottish state maintain the level of research quality excellence currently enjoyed by Scottish Higher Education Institutions as part of the UK?

AND what evidence is there that independence would improve the performance of our institutions?

It’s not just me asking these questions….

We’ve seen academics specialising in subjects as diverse as bacteriology to space engineering, veterinary science to the food industry, highlighting the risks.

What the white paper says

Of course the Nationalists would have you believe that all would be well in the event of independence – in this and every other walk of life.

But merely asserting it is not enough. Evidence is required to back up their case.

And when getting involved in the world of academia, evidence is not a nice to have, it’s a prerequisite.

And yet, of course, it was evidence that the White Paper lacked.

We were promised a blueprint for independence, but we didn’t get it.

Instead we got a set of assertions and grand statements: ‘there will be major direct gains in an independent Scotland for Scotland’s universities.’

What we didn’t get was any explanation of how we might achieve these gains.

Instead all we got was a list of the things we have right now in our higher education institutions as part of the UK.

I don’t disagree with what the paper says about positive student surveys. As a graduate of a Scottish University with a sixteen year old son currently contemplating his own possible applications to them, I celebrate that.

I don’t disagree with student mobility initiatives such as Erasmus and Fulbright – I wholeheartedly support them.

Nor do I challenge the fact that this sector helps to drive the Scottish economy and the importance of maintaining a strong research base to ensure that it keeps on doing just that.

But the point is, all of these things are happening already; as part of a constitutional setup that delivers to the people of Scotland the best of both worlds.

All the Scottish Government did in their White Paper was to draw attention to everything that is already good about higher education in Scotland.

At the same time they failed to examine what we stand to lose by breaking up the UK-wide networks that we have.

According to the Scottish Government we’ll have a common research area between an independent Scotland and the continuing UK.

Sounds a lot like what we have right now doesn’t it?

Except of course for one vital distinction. National Governments fund national research.

There is no international precedent for sharing or replicating a system on the scale of the current UK funding streams across international borders.

Independence would mean creating a new separate Scottish state; and at the same time creating a new international border with England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the continuing UK.

You have to ask yourselves why would a state that we had just chosen to leave, want to carry on sharing institutions, funding, expertise in the same way that we do now because we are part of it?

Some of them have talked about the ‘international trend’ in research for collaboration between countries.

Let’s take a look at an example.

NordForsk is an organisation under the Nordic Council of Ministers that provides funding for Nordic research cooperation, as well as offering advice and input on Nordic research policy.

So far, so good.

But the bit the Scottish Government are less quick to highlight is that in 2011 the fund amounted to around £13 million – compared to the £307 million secured by Scottish institutions alone from UK-wide Research Councils in 2012-13.

We have excellent academic links with countries across the globe – of course we do.

No-one is suggesting that there would not be collaboration between scientists and researchers in a separate Scotland and their colleagues on the other side of an international border.

But the reality is simple.

Divergence in research frameworks could make the flow of funding, people and knowledge harder.

Domestic collaborations would become international collaborations and would carry larger risks.

An independent Scottish state might wish to share arrangements and facilities but we do not share our Research Council funding – or have a common research framework, the very life-blood of research and innovation in the UK – with other states.

Why should we in Scotland expect to be treated differently?

Common research

The White Paper states that the Scottish Government would seek to continue the current arrangements for a common research area.

Much as they seem to seek a common currency area; common border area; common regulations for business.

I have said elsewhere that while the Scottish Government want people to believe they have a vision, in fact what they proffer is a mirage.

And like all mirages, the closer you get, the less real it becomes.

In research – as in so many other areas – there can be no guarantees.

If we vote in September to create a new separate state, we also vote to leave the United Kingdom.

Becoming a new state means setting up new institutions. And it means leaving the institutions we have in the UK, like the UK Research Councils.

The Scottish Government cannot assert that shared arrangements will be secured. This will all be subject to negotiations.

And as anyone knows who’s ever taken part in negotiations, to get a deal you have to give as well as take.

On top of this – we know they want to do a deal that sees them keep all the bits they like from being part of the UK, whilst giving up the bits they don’t, at break-neck speed. Something has to give.

But it would seem that the Nationalists want to rely on goodwill and generosity from the continuing UK.

They want agreement to share institutions from the UK family that we would have just walked out of.

A family to which we had decided to stop making our contributions.

But at the same time there’s no offer of goodwill the other way.

Take the situation of students from the continuing UK paying fees in an independent Scotland.

The White Paper states the Scottish Government remains committed to free tuition in Scotland.

At question 240 they recognise that students from any EU member state have, and I quote ‘the same rights of access to education as home students. This means EU applicants for entry are considered on the same academic basis as home students and pay the same. This will remain the case with independence.’

And yet the answer to the question will students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland still be charged is a simple ‘yes’.

Mike Russell has nothing to offer the higher education sector in his vision of independence.

Assertions

His White Paper is full of assertions and makes promises he cannot deliver.

That is precisely why he has chosen to distract attention with a synthetic spat around immigration with accusations of xenophobia.

It is the oldest trick in the book that when you have nothing of substance to say you seek to create heat as a substitute for light.

The UK Government has of course taken its own tough decisions on fees in England, and we know well that this is not easy.

But those decisions – like all decisions in government – must be taken in light of affordability, legality and non-discrimination.

Devolution has allowed the Scottish Government to make its own funding decisions within a member state. But as part of the EU an independent Scotland would have to abide by the law and not discriminate against another country.

Let’s just think about this for a second.

We’ve got a Scottish Government here claiming on the one hand that it could charge students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland…

…Whilst on the other hand admitting that if an independent Scotland were a member of the EU it would have to offer free tuition to students from every other EU member state.

What does it say about the good faith that the Scottish Government would go into negotiations with those representing the continuing UK we had just left?

I can see the script now: “We’d like to share the UK pound with you , and we’d still like to have access to the Bank of England – but as for your young people; they will have to pay fees whilst young people from France, Spain and Italy can get into our universities for free.

And can we have a common research area too, please?”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not convinced this is the greatest opening line for a set of negotiations of the sort the Scottish Government envisage with the continuing UK.

Not to mention the fact that it would be illegal under EU law.

First we saw a group of academics query the proposal saying it would run into ‘significant problems with EU law’.

Academics including Professor Hugh Pennington and Professor Peter Holmes.

We were told that there was legal advice. We’ve heard that before of course.

And just as with the legal advice the Scottish Government claimed to have on automatic EU membership, when people like the former Director of Universities Scotland, David Caldwell ask to see it, it goes strangely quiet.

The professor of European Union law at the University of Edinburgh has said that the Scottish Government would face an ‘extremely steep uphill battle’ to convince the EU that charging students from the continuing UK would be legal.

And Paul Beaumont, Professor of European Union and Private International Law at the University of Aberdeen has said there’s a ‘substantial hole’ in the Scottish Government’s plans for funding higher education in Scotland.

But it’s not just academics within Scotland who have voiced concerns.

The spokesman for the European Commissioner for education has confirmed that ‘unequal treatment based on nationality is regarded as discrimination and is prohibited by article 18 of the treaty on the functioning of the EU…’

The former European Commissioner for Education Jan Fiegel put it even more simply:

‘this would be illegal. This would be a breach of the Treaty.’

So now we have a Scottish Government planning to speed through its accession process for the EU

…securing all the favourable terms that the UK has built up over years and decades’ worth of negotiation

…whilst publicly stating that they immediately intend to breach the terms of EU membership which prohibit discrimination between states.

Again, if this weren’t so serious it would be laughable.

International stage

But this is how the Scottish Government would seek to represent Scotland on the international stage – and to think that Mike Russell has the temerity to accuse me of xenophobia.

A state that chooses to pick and choose from the rule book to suit its own ends.

That wants to rely on some kind of ‘social union’ and ‘great friendship’ to get good terms from those that it walks out on, but is unwilling to offer any goodwill in return.

I said at the beginning that higher education and research is an excellent example of how being a part of the UK delivers the best of both worlds.

A thriving network of universities that are delivering opportunities for all, regardless of social background, to improve life chances and enabling students to go on to contribute to the common good.

Graduates – doctors, teachers, scientists amongst them – all delivering benefits to society.

Whilst at the same time we are part of a UK-wide research network supported by a diverse and strong economy.

A network that provides the funding to allow our doctors and scientists go on to be the very best of their professions, exploring and making new discoveries that benefit us all.

The best way to ensure that our sector can continue to perform as it does is to reject independence and stay with a system of higher education that draws on the best of both worlds.

And if you cherish our system of higher education as I do

…if you are proud of the amount of highly rated research that is being undertaken here as I am

…and if like me, you believe in investing in our young people so that they can to make the most of what we have on offer…

You will make the positive choice for Scotland and for higher education, and vote to stay a part of our UK family.

Alistair Carmichael – 2014 Speech in Brussels

alistaircarmichael

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Carmichael, the Secretary of State for Scotland, in Brussels on 20th January 2014.

The most important political debate of my life-time – indeed of most Scots’ lifetime – is taking place now. In just 8 months Scots will have the opportunity to cast their vote on the future of our country in a referendum on Scottish independence.

We will take the most fundamental collective decision that a nation can ever be asked to take: Whether we stay part of the United Kingdom family or go it alone. That is Scotland’s choice.

There are many questions to ask and answers to give on the impact of such a permanent and irreversible step. It is by no means a new debate but it is one that still manages to throw up fresh issues and uncertainties.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m very clear on my view: Scotland is better off within our United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom is better off with Scotland as part of it.

But this isn’t a decision that will only impact on our day-to-day lives within Scotland and the UK. It’s a decision that will affect our relationships with people and countries around the world.

Today I am going to set out why that would be and why I believe that it is in all of our interests that it should not happen.

I want to show how Scotland has flourished and achieved within the United Kingdom and because of the United Kingdom – not in spite of it. I also want to show how Scotland can continue to contribute to and benefit from our United Kingdom family. And why that contribution is important to all of us who live there and to our friends and partners here in Europe and across the globe.

Setting the scene

But first, let me recap on how we got here. The Scottish National Party’s outright win in the May 2011 election to the devolved Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh meant that Scotland had its first single-party majority devolved government since the Parliament was established in 1999.

The SNP entered that election campaign with a manifesto pledge to hold an independence referendum and succeeded in electing more than enough Members of the Scottish Parliament to set the legislative agenda.

What it did not have, however, was the legal power to hold that referendum. In the settlement which established the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the responsibility and power over all aspects of the constitution was retained by the UK Parliament at Westminster.

Whatever the legalities of the situation the politics was quite clear so the UK government took steps to ensure that rather than just talking about a referendum, there could actually be one.

For the Scottish Parliament to have acted alone would have been to act outside the law. And as every government knows: the rule of law is a fundamental first principle of government. You abandon it at your peril.

So Scotland’s two governments agreed a framework for a legal, fair and decisive referendum in Scotland. A framework that ensured the decision on Scotland’s future could be taken by people in Scotland. Reaching an agreement on the process was a big moment in 2012.

But now we are in an even more vital phase of this debate – discussing the substance, not just the process. What choice should Scots make?

I do not believe in Scotland remaining part of the UK because of dogma, ideology or nostalgia, but because of what the UK means in the here and now and what it can deliver in the future.

For too long successive Governments have allowed to go unspoken the contribution that Scotland makes to the UK – and we’ve been equally silent on the benefits that Scotland gets from being part of it.

We all put something in and we all get something out: the UK – like the European Union – is greater than the sum of its parts.

2013 was the year when the UK started putting the record straight.

EU in the context of the debate:

We embarked on an analysis programme examining the facts, reviewing the evidence and making the case for Scotland as part of the UK in a series of detailed papers.

Last Friday we published the ninth paper in this series – our first in 2014. This examined the benefits for Scotland of being part of the UK in the EU and on the international stage.

These issues are not esoteric. They matter for very practical reasons.

Ours is an age where people derive real benefit from increased cooperation and being part of a global society. Where the logical direction of travel is to break down barriers and work together rather than to erect them and create difference. Scots, like all Europeans, gain from our status as European citizens.

Membership creates employment, growth and prosperity across the UK thanks to the EU-wide single market. 1 in every 10 jobs in the UK is linked to the EU single market and nearly half of British trade, worth around £500 billion, is with other EU member states. 40% of cars and other vehicles built in the UK are sold in the EU. And 86% of British meat exports go to the EU

Being part of the EU also helps to open up new markets for UK businesses around the world. The EU has trade agreements with over 50 countries including emerging countries such as Turkey, South Korea, Mexico and South Africa.

And the EU is currently in negotiations for a free trade agreement with the US which is worth a potential £10 billion to the UK economy.

Economic benefits

These economic benefits cannot be underplayed. But all of us here today know that the EU offers our citizens more than an economic union.

EU cooperation is crucial for tackling cross-border security threats to the UK such as terrorism, drug smuggling and money laundering. The European Arrest Warrant is a crucial mechanism for combating cross-border crime.

Since 2009 it has been used in the UK to extradite over 4000 criminal suspects.

The EU also plays a crucial role in tackling climate change, increasing energy security and creating the low carbon economy we need for our future. A united ‘Team EU’ approach was critical in establishing the Kyoto Protocol and the Durban agreement.

And of course being part of the EU increases our individual opportunities: 2.2 million Britons live in other EU countries, working, studying or enjoying retirement.

More than half of all UK nationals have a European Health Insurance Card which allows us to receive free or reduced cost healthcare when visiting another member state, benefiting the 24 million of us who holiday in EU countries each year.

Of course, both the EU and the UK have been built over time and on the basis of shared interests and outlook.

The UK family sits within the European family and each has its own set of values and institutions that have put down roots. Most British citizens feel pride in the National Health Service that we built together. In the BBC whose reputation for broadcasting excellence is understood at home and overseas.

And in the sporting success we have enjoyed not least in the 2012 London Olympics where athletes from every part of the UK trained together, competed together and won together.

As European citizens we can all take pride in an unprecedented Common Market that creates jobs and has made untold millions of goods accessible to our citizens.

As a lawyer who is passionate about human rights I cherish a European justice system that protects civil liberties and has exalted human rights through the ECHR.

And a set of institutions that has brought democratic accountability across a continent in a way that would have been unimaginable just a few short decades ago.

Benefits of UK terms of membership

But as part the UK Scots benefit still further from being one of the largest member states in the EU. We are able to use our UK influence to deliver on subjects that are of direct interest and importance to people and businesses in Scotland.

We have secured ‘Hague Preferences’ allowing Scottish fishermen to benefit from higher quota shares. In the face of fierce opposition we secured protection for Scottish salmon from unfair trade from imported Norwegian salmon.

And in negotiations on the EU’s Third Energy Package we secured a special provision for energy companies based in Scotland to enable them to comply with European legislation without needing to sell off parts of their business.

We also benefitted from the flexibility that the European family has shown to our specific asks and needs. The United Kingdom was able to negotiate a permanent exemption from the euro.

We have also maintained our own common travel arrangements with an opt-out from Schengen. And then of course there’s the UK’s budget rebate. As one of the largest net contributors to the EU budget, the UK has negotiated a refund on a proportion of its contributions.

All three are at risk for Scotland if we leave the UK.

An independent Scottish state would have no share of the UK’s rebate from the EU, nor be likely to secure an abatement of its own.

The analysis we published last Friday shows that without its own budgetary correction even under the most optimistic scenarios Scotland’s net contribution would be at least 2.2 billion Euros higher during the current budgetary period than it would have been as part of the UK. That’s an extra 840 Euros per household in Scotland.

Scotland gets to share in these benefits with people across the UK because we are part of the United Kingdom. If we choose to become a new separate state, we choose to leave the United Kingdom.

And in doing so we would need to become a member of the EU in our own right.

Law not politics

That is not a question of politics – that is a question of law. We set out the clear, legal position in the first of our analysis papers.

The EU is a treaty-based organisation and the UK – not Scotland – is the contracting party to the Treaties of the EU.

In the event of independence, the remainder of the UK – England, Wales and Northern Ireland – would be the same state as the existing UK, with the same international rights and obligations.

Its EU membership would continue on existing terms. The Scottish Government used to deny this of course.

They used to assert that an independent Scotland would automatically be a member of the EU. And they used to say they had legal advice to back them up.

But eventually – the truth was forced out of them (only after spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money I might add) There was no legal advice. There is no automatic entry.

The Scottish Government now grudgingly accept that negotiations would be required for EU membership. But I’m afraid they still fail to tell Scots the reality about that process.

Rather than applying in the same way that every other new member has under Article 49 of the Treaty of the European Union – seeking the unanimous support of the European Council; having membership approved through an Accession Treaty; and having the application ratified with the constitutional requirement of each existing member State – we are told by the Scottish Government in their White Paper that Scotland could become a new member of the EU by the ‘back door’.

The so-called “Article 48 route” is held up by the Scottish Government as the super highway to EU membership. The fast track not only into the EU but also exactly the same rights and responsibilities that we currently enjoy as part of the UK. But in reality this is a dead-end.

Article 48 has never been used to expand membership of the EU. There is no way round the law.

A new state must apply, it would be no different for an independent Scotland.

This is not to say a new Scottish state could not or would not become an EU Member State. But before the Scottish Government start excitedly quoting me on that, let me remind them that membership – and critically, the terms of membership – would have to be negotiated with 28 Member States.

This isn’t just our view. It’s the view of the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.

It’s a view expressed by some of those Member States that an independent Scotland would have to negotiate with including the Spanish Prime Minister.

And it’s the view of expert lawyers like Jean-Claude Piris, the former director general of the EU Council’s legal service who has said “it would not be legally correct to try to use article 48”. The Scottish Government ‘vision’ of independent Scotland in EU is a mirage

But it’s not just the question of process that’s at stake here. It’s the substance too.

And here we’ve seen yet more rocking from front-foot to back from the Nationalists when it comes to the heart of this debate.

Earlier in Alex Salmond’s leadership, Independence in Europe was the slogan for the Scottish National Party. And there was bullish rhetoric about a separate Scottish state, in Europe, punching above its weight.

On fishing for example – a subject of the greatest importance to my own constituents in Orkney and Shetland – the Nationalists used to assert that a better deal would come the way of a separate Scotland.

But now that the words require substance, the picture that Nationalists paint is not clear but blurred and patchy.

I have said elsewhere that while the Scottish Government want people to believe that they have a vision, in fact what they proffer is a mirage. Like all mirages, the closer you get, the less real it becomes.

Nowhere is this more true than on their position on EU membership. Their recent White Paper on independence demonstrates this perfectly.

There is a cursory mention of the implications of independence for Scotland’s fishing industry.

There is no mention of how an independent Scotland would avoid the recent cut to structural funds that has been shared throughout the UK. And despite their robotic assertions there is no explanation of how Scottish farmers could expect to do better under independence.

Uncertainty

In applying for separate membership, as a new state, there would of course be considerable uncertainty. This of course explains the curious mix of assertion and omission that stake out the SNP’s position.

But let’s just think this through.

Why would all 28 member states agree to reopen the terms of the Common Fisheries Policy to suit a new member with a small population and specific demands?

Why would they agree to revise the structural funds formula so that their money is redirected to Scotland to compensate for the loss that comes with leaving the UK?

And why would other member states that have had to phase in Common Agricultural Policy receipts over 10 years agree to an independent Scotland automatically receiving payments from day one?

Not just that – but according to the Scottish Government – reopening the CAP deal and agreeing to give Scottish farmers increased payments too.

That would mean newly joined countries like Croatia accepting to a deal that was never offered to them or their farmers.

And on the Scottish Government’s timetable this would require all 28 Member States to rip up the hard-fought EU budget ceilings agreed to 2020 and reduce their share of the budget in order to give Scotland more money.

Now that’s all before we even get to why those member states that have been required to join the euro and Schengen as a condition of membership – or that would like a rebate but have none – would now make special provision so that Scotland could have what they could not?

All of these things that the Nationalists say they would want for Scotland in the EU: The exemption from the euro and Schengen, the retention of the rebate – reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

All of which as part of the UK, Scotland already has today, or is better placed to achieve them in the future.

Leaving the UK means leaving the EU, then trying to fight your way back in seeking the same terms from a weaker position. This runs against Scotland’s interests.

And we can’t afford to forget that the Scottish Government are seeking to rush all of this through in a flash. They have made clear that, in the event of a yes vote this September, they would declare independence in March 2016 – just eighteen months later.

But they have also said that they intend to settle the terms of EU membership – and gain unanimous agreement from all 28 member states – in that timeframe.

This would be a negotiation of record-breaking speed to obtain extraordinary terms.

Little wonder that experts like Professor Adam Tomkins – Chair of Public Law at Glasgow University and David Crawley – a former representative of the Scottish Government in Brussels – have said that such a timetable is simply not realistic.

Of course, in any negotiation, the more you give up, the more likely you are to reach a speedy conclusion. Equally the more emphasis you put on a deadline, the less leverage you have over the deal.

European leaders will be aware of this; Alex Salmond should be too.

The eighteen month timetable he proposes to place both on himself and the rest of the EU is a negotiating position of extraordinary weakness.

One man’s obsession to deliver independence not just to a specific timetable, but to a specific day of the week…would not just undermine Alex Salmond’s hand in negotiations, but Scotland’s future in Europe.

Instead of showing he has Scotland’s interests at heart, this obsession with a date rather than the deal reveals just how much of a vanity project this really is.

Of course the reality is that the terms of membership could not be known until such a time as they were agreed.

But the Scottish Government is morally bound to set out in detail what terms of membership they would seek and we are all entitled to assess just how likely this is to happen.

That clarity of terms is being denied by a party whose head is buried in the sand – and that hopes that other European leaders’ are likewise. The terms that they seek are by turns unclear and unrealistic.

The process they propose is flawed in legal terms and destined to fail in the cold hard light of political reality.

Tactics

Let no-one think that the Scottish Government has a vision for its membership of Europe. As in all areas it has tactics.

Not tactics to secure a good deal for Scotland. Just tactics to minimize the risks and uncertainties of independence in the eyes of Scots. Not just about the EU – Scotland’s place in the world is stronger as part of the UK

I’ve focused my remarks on Europe – but we all need to remember that this is not just a question of EU membership. The UK is at the heart of all the world’s most influential organisations.

We use our diplomatic global network to help others and to represent Scotland worldwide, promoting the interests of businesses based in Scotland and looking after Scots who get into difficulty overseas.

The Scottish Government claims that Scotland holds international priorities and values that are distinct from the rest of the UK – this is simply not true.

The UK has played a leading role in strengthening the rule of law, supporting democracy and protecting human rights around the world.

Scotland – as part of the UK – was one of the founding members of the United Nations. We have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council helping to take decisions on major foreign policy and defence issues.

Together, we can make a bigger impact on global poverty. Pooling our resources, we have grown our aid budget and become the second largest donor nation in the world today.

Put simply – as a United Kingdom, in Europe – we achieve more now, and will continue to do so in the future, if we stay together.

Alistair Carmichael – 2014 Speech on Scottish Independence

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Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, at Stirling University on 13th January 2014.

It is a real pleasure to be with you all here in Stirling University today to talk about Scotland’s future.

On 18th September this year we will take the most fundamental collective decision that a nation can ever be asked to take. This is a once in a generation decision:

We have just over eight months to decide whether we stay in the United Kingdom family or go it alone. Eight months to choose between remaining part of this four-nation partnership that we have built together or to break away and to start from scratch. That is our choice.

That time will fly by – but I’m determined to the make the most of every minute. Why?

Quite simply because I believe in Scotland within the United Kingdom.

I believe in the contribution we’ve made over the last 300 years along with our friends and families across England, Wales and Northern Ireland: our common effort to create and share something bigger and that serves us all well.

I believe in the benefits we get from being part of this larger shared community.

I believe this because I can see the evidence around me – at home in Orkney, here in Stirling, in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, right throughout the United Kingdom.

Greater than the sum of its parts

We all put something in and we are all getting something out: the UK is greater than the sum of its parts.

Right now Scotland sees the benefit of this long shared history. Right now, we get the benefits from natural resources like North Sea oil – but we are able to manage the volatility in production and price as part of a much larger and diverse economy made up of 60 million individuals rather than just five.

Our economy comprises four and a half million companies rather than 320,000 – a market with no boundaries, no borders, no customs – but with a stable UK currency that is respected and envied across the world; a single financial system, and a single body of rules and regulations.

Because we share in these benefits, Scotland is best placed to succeed. We are the wealthiest area of the UK outside London and South East, and we have achieved that as part of the UK. And right now, all of this supports jobs here in Scotland.

Jobs in industries as diverse as oil and gas, defence, food and drink and the new and emerging creative industries of the future.

Let us not forget we get more back than we put in. Public spending in Scotland is currently 10% higher than the UK average.

Yes, there are national differences across the UK – we are not a monolithic culture, thank goodness. That’s true of our economy and our society.

One of things of which I am most proud in the UK is that we’re able to absorb, to protect and to cherish differences: differences of culture, religion, accent, origin and much, much more.

But let no-one underestimate what we share together and how that helps us succeed together.

Of course, our commitment to the UK family is not just about the facts and figures. It’s also about the values and ambitions we share.

The hands that built the United Kingdom have created things of enormous value. They strike a chord of pride within us and remind us all of what we can achieve together.

Institutions

Together, we built a National Health Service.

When William Beveridge identified the five “Giant Evils” facing post-war Britain – squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease – these evils blighted every nation of our United Kingdom.

And when the UK Parliament established the NHS, it did so to fight those evils within the entirety of our borders. We faced the same problems, we felt the same outrage and we together we found the same solution.

Today, people across the UK family take enormous pride in a National Health Service, providing comprehensive health services, free at the point of use for all UK citizens wherever they fall ill within our United Kingdom.

Together, we built the BBC – three letters that stand for excellence in broadcasting at home and around the world.

They invoke quality, depth and impartiality. It is the product of our shared wish for a national broadcaster that can educate, entertain and inform.

It is funded by a flat licence fee that guarantees access to programming that is both UK wide and nation and region specific. It serves local communities with a local presence in places like my own communities in Orkney and Shetland. It provides national reporting and entertainment across the nation. Around the world people look to the world service as a source of truth and impartiality.

It is unrivalled, unparalleled, and irreplaceable.

Together, we have built a formidable sporting culture too. In so many sports, the nations of our UK family have different traditions, different strengths and different teams.

But while we maintain a strong pride in our teams for football, rugby and so much more we also maintain an enormous pride in the sporting clout that we represent together.

Whether that’s the British Lions, or next month’s Winter Olympics, or of course, our astonishing achievements in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

At those Games, the UK won 29 gold medals. And over the Games, as the tally went higher, so did our collective sense of national pride.

Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray, Mo Farah, Katherine Granger. Those outstanding athletes weren’t cheered on by parts of the UK, but by all of us.

They were our representatives. They worked together, they competed together – many had trained together at facilities across the UK. Their success fed our pride.

The NHS, the BBC, our sporting events, teams and heroes. These are just a few of the things that bind together our family in pride and endeavour.

Shared values

Shared values, shared effort, shared achievements. Why should we now break these things up? As separate states must.

When we have achieved so much through our common values and labour, wouldn’t we go on to achieve so much more?

The challenges we face today may be different but they are every bit as demanding as those we faced in the past.

Together, we can afford the subsidies that will bring about a renewables revolution in this country. Cutting carbon emissions, tackling climate change, strengthening the green economy. Together, we can make a bigger impact on global poverty.

Pooling our resources, we have grown our aid budget and become the second largest donor nation in the world today. Together, we can rebalance our economy and become more prosperous.

Growing faster than any other G7 country, becoming the largest EU economy within perhaps just twenty years, providing the financial security that safeguards our banks and secures our currency.

The motivation to prevent climate change, to protect the most vulnerable and to build a strong prosperous and sustainable economy. These values are common across the United Kingdom.

And by staying together, we can build on those values to create a strong and secure future. Why should we now break these things up?

2013 – the year of evidence

I don’t believe in the UK family because of dogma, ideology or nostalgia but because of what the UK means to us in the here and now and what it can deliver for us all in the future.

For too long we have allowed to go unspoken the contribution that Scotland makes to the UK – and we have been equally silent on the benefits that we get from being part of it.

2013 was the year when the UK Government started putting the record straight.

We embarked on an analysis programme examining the facts, reviewing the evidence and making the case for Scotland as part of the United Kingdom in a series of detailed papers.

Soon we will publish our first paper of the new year. It will examine the benefits for Scotland of being part of the UK in the EU and on the international stage.

The UK is at the heart of all of the world’s most influential organisations. As part of the UK we are one of the founding members of the United Nations and have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – helping to take decisions on major foreign policy and defence issues.

As part of the UK we can use our influence to help others – whether to give our home-grown businesses access to new export markets through our highly-developed embassy network; or providing support and assistance to other countries in times of crisis.

Our paper will set out the facts about Scotland’s contribution and the benefits we get from being part of this world-leading partnership. We’re talking about a complex, detailed piece of analytical work.

That’s because what we have in the UK is a product of years, of decades worth of cooperation and negotiation – both within the UK and with our neighbours.

Academics, businesses and legal experts here in Scotland have read – and contributed to – the papers we’ve published to date.

Facts and evidence

They support the facts and the evidence we have presented.

You’ll find no grandiose flights of fancy here – only the very facts of our United Kingdom:

– our banks are safer

– we have greater financial protection for savers and pensioners

– greater levels of competition delivering cheaper mortgages and insurance for families and businesses

– we invest in research, infrastructure and industry to remain at the forefront of new technological developments

– we have a single labour market which allows people to move freely within the UK for jobs

– we use our international influence to make a positive difference

The list can – and does – go on.

Together these facts to make a positive case for Scotland in the United Kingdom. And throughout the remainder of this year we’re going to keep making that case.

But you don’t just have to accept the facts we’ve published, just take a look at some of the other contributions we’ve had so recently in this debate:

We have heard the supermarkets talk about the benefit of being part of a single large economy where food and drink costs us, the consumers, the same regardless of the costs of production and distribution.

We’ve heard the CBI – the organisation that speaks on behalf of business – say that the nations of the UK are stronger together and that Scotland’s business and economic interests will be best served by remaining part of the UK family

We’ve seen the body that represents accountants in Scotland continue to ask questions about the Scottish Government’s proposals for pensions – questions that remain after the White Paper’s publication

And we’ve heard legal experts describe independence as ‘a road to nowhere’

It’s no surprise that the Scottish Government argue against all the evidence and the facts that we’ve presented – but their eagerness to shout down the experts from the worlds of business, academia and the law is worrying and regrettable. Other side of the argument – not being honest

I don’t argue with the right of those on the other side of this debate to feel the way they do about the future of our country.

But I do feel very strongly that those who want to break up our United Kingdom have a duty to listen to the experts and to make an evidence-based case of their own.

It is not good enough to adopt the politics of ‘he who shouts loudest’. It’s not good enough to say, when challenged, “just because I say so”.

For most of 2013 the Scottish Government told us in response to almost every question put to them: ‘wait for the White paper’; ‘the answer will be in the White paper’. But what we got in November was heavy on rhetoric and light on answers. It was a wish list without a price list.

Promises

On the one hand we got a set of promises that the Scottish Government can’t deliver.

No matter what they say, it is not for the Scottish Government to dictate what deal a separate Scotland could negotiate with the rest of the UK.

As Scots we all have to ask ourselves if we choose to leave the UK, why would those we’ve walked out on want to continue to share the things we have at the moment precisely because we part of the UK?

If we stop contributing to the UK, why would we keep getting the benefits from being part of it?

And that’s before we even start to think about the negotiations that would be required with all 28 EU member states, bilateral relations with countries around the world and international organisations.

Yet on the other hand we saw the Scottish Government promising things post-independence that they could be delivering today.

The Scottish Government chose to put the spotlight on childcare in their White Paper – something that it is within their power to do right now.

Last week they finally acknowledged the folly of this approach and came forward with proposals to start the catch-up with childcare provision in the rest of the United Kingdom. In so doing they made the case for what we have – not for what they want.

The Nationalists like to assert that they have a vision for an independent Scotland and that their White Paper is its articulation.It is not. This is not a vision; it is a mirage.

Like all mirages, the closer you get the less real it becomes.There is no coherence whatsoever in this nationalist document – or any other – about the kind of country Scotland would be if we were to leave the UK family.

This is not surprising. The Scottish Government has long been skittish and evasive about the model for an independent Scotland.

They proffer whatever fits for any given audience at any given time. Then switch it for something else when the moment suits.

Back in 2007 we were told that Scotland would be the free market Celtic Lion. Roaring to the sound of banking deregulation, and echoing across the arc of prosperity to Iceland and Ireland.

By 2011 the tune had changed. Now we would be a Scandinavian-style social democracy. With social services and public spending priorities that looked east, not west.

The White Paper couldn’t decide which way to jump.

A promise to cut some taxes, and freeze others, clumsily grafted on to expensive commitments on nationalisation, public spending and a lower retirement age. All based on a single, solitary page of numbers and the wilful omission of data from 2008 – the inconvenient year of the financial crash.

In every sense, it simply does not add up. Even in the best of times, no-one can have a low-tax economy paying for Scandinavian levels of social provision. If they could, Scandinavia – and others – would have done it.

Lack of vision

To say that they will do so with the backdrop of an ageing population and reduced oil and gas revenues, only adds insult to injury. There is no vision, just 670 pages of words.

All things to all people, big on rhetoric, low on facts, it offers no true picture of what kind of country Scotland would really become.

What currency would we use? What terms of EU membership could we hope to achieve? How much would independence cost and just how would it be paid for?

It is for the Scottish Government to present a full, true and costed vision of what independence would mean. If they refuse to do that, what are people being asked to vote for?

Positive case

In 2014 my job – and the job of all those who believe in the United Kingdom – is to make the strong positive case for the UK and to make it loudly and proudly.

We can do that confidently, because our case is supported by the experts. The substance of the argument is on our side and it has gone without meaningful challenge by our opponents.

Now our job is to make sure that every voter is aware of these facts before they enter the polling station.

Because ultimately this isn’t a debate that will rest on the production of papers by Governments, however learned and substantial they may be.

This is a debate that must take place in the pub and in the bank – at the school gates and on the factory floor – our universities and in our supermarkets. This must be a debate in which we are all involved.

We cannot leave this to someone else and hope they get it right for us. We must not let anyone tell us what we can and cannot think or say.

In this debate, everyone’s voice matters. We all get one vote.

The future of our country really is in our hands and we must take it, grasp it and decide for ourselves.

So my hope for 2014 is this: in September I hope that all of us who can vote, do vote.

And I am confident that people right across Scotland will make the positive choice and vote no. The positive choice to stay part of the United Kingdom family. The positive for a bright Scottish future as part of the United Kingdom.

Alistair Carmichael – 2013 Speech on Scottish Independence

alistaircarmichael

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Carmichael on 13th November 2013.

It is a pleasure to be here in Inverness today – as an MP of 12 and half years I’m used to making speeches, but this is my first key-note speech as Secretary of State. In terms of where and when to make it I gave only one wish for my speech it was not going to be in the central belt!

It is an enormous pleasure for me to be here in the city of Inverness, capital of the Highlands. This is a city that has seen enormous growth and change over the decades and is now home to many businesses in a wide-range of fields, but which is still identifiably a Highland community in its feel.

This seat is home to my friend and colleague Danny Alexander, I have been privileged to work closely with Danny over the years and we have both been Ministers in this coalition Government and he has become an enormously influential politician.

When Danny tells people in Government to listen they do – and Danny takes every opportunity in his job to speak up for the Highlands.

Now in Cabinet a boy from Colonsay sits across the table from a boy from Islay who represents Orkney and Shetland – two island men both represented at the heart of this Government.

Proud

I am very proud to take up the role as Secretary of State for Scotland particularly at the current time. Right from the start I got to see how quickly the labels get put on you on this job.

Their labels as a ‘bruiser’ or any of the rest of it are all a predictable part of how the press covers politics: plenty of reminders of what I look like dressed as a Viking warrior for the Up Helly Aa (and I can let you into a little secret – it’s not an outfit I wear every day) to being described as a ‘supposed Scot’: all in the space of four weeks!

The latter description was, I suspect, designed to provoke. It certainly did tell us something about this debate – that I’m not alone in experiencing.

Not content with trying to divide the UK, the supporters of independence also seek to divide our fellow Scots – depending on their voting intentions in the referendum.

I tell you this – once you start mixing up politics and patriotism you can quickly get into dangerous territory.

I am proud to be a Scot and come from a family that as far back as we can trace, have always lived in Scotland. My father is a native Gaelic speaker and as a child and a young adult I competed at local and national Mods.

I was educated in the Scottish state sector and studied Scots Law at the University of Aberdeen and qualified as a solicitor in Scots law. I have held a commission as a Procurator Fiscal Depute – one of the great ancient offices of the Scottish legal system.

Since 2001 I have represented a Scottish constituency in the House of Commons. I look forward to Hogmanay as much as Christmas Day. I drink malt whisky and I’m partial to the occasional tunnocks teacake.

What else do I have to do for these people to regard me as a “true” Scot as opposed to being a “supposed” one?

Scottishness

No one has a right to question my Scottishness or anyone else’s come to that.

Polls would suggest that most people in Scotland want to remain part of the United Kingdom. Many others do not.

A few weeks ago, in yet another effort to have a debate about the debate rather than having the debate itself, Alex Salmond called on David Cameron to debate independence. He wanted, he said, to see the Prime Minister “argue against Scotland”. Not, you note, “against Scottish independence” but “against Scotland”. In the nationalist mindset it seems to be the same thing.

Let me be clear: You are not a better Scot if you support independence. Nor are you better if you don’t.

Being a part of the UK doesn’t undermine our Scottishness – our identity as Scots is not and never has been at threat.

This is not a debate about patriotism – It is a debate about whether or not we should continue to work together across the United Kingdom, or whether we should go it alone.

A lot of airtime gets devoted to what independence would mean for Scotland – and rightly so – there are plenty of questions, I’ll return to just some of those later.

But before we make a choice about our future, we need to understand what it is we have right now as part of the United Kingdom.

The nationalists like to take us right back to 1707 and even further to Bannockburn. Don’t get me wrong – history is important: but our recent history is just as important as the more distant. That recent history has been one of collaboration, of partnership, of working together.

Best of both worlds

I’m not going to turn this speech into ‘the greatest hits of the UK’ – but I will say this: we have achieved a great deal working together. And I don’t think those of us who believe in a strong Scotland within a strong United Kingdom spend enough time talking about that.

So next time someone asks ‘what has the UK ever done for me?’ I want you to remember this….

Together our economy is stronger and more secure.

We have a domestic market of 60 million individuals rather than just 5, 4.5 million companies rather than 320,000 – with no boundaries, no borders, no customs, but with a common currency, single financial system, and a single body of rules and regulations.

I am in no doubt: businesses right across Scotland have no wish to change this system.

I put it like this: we have a stronger place in the world with a great and wide network of embassies and diplomatic offices across the globe – supporting our businesses overseas and looking after Scots abroad.

As part of the UK we are a major player on the international stage: with significant influence in the EU, UN, G8 and other international institutions. We can and do make a real difference to people in other parts of the world in times of trouble, as our work in the Philippines is showing right now.

Benefits of the UK

At home the benefits of our United Kingdom can be seen not just in the make-up of families like mine and many others right across the UK, but also by the more than 700,000 Scots who live and work in other parts of the UK and the 30,000 people who travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK each day to work. All of us benefit from a common passport, tax and national insurance system, meaning that people as well as goods and services can move freely.

Where it makes sense to have decisions taken in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament responsibility has been devolved to Holyrood. It is a constructive and positive approach. Devolution within a United Kingdom really does give us the best of both worlds.

Week two of the job and the crisis at Grangemouth petro-chemical plant landed on my desk. That illustrated well what the best of both worlds gives us: working together John Swinney and I could bring together the resources of government to secure the future of the plant more effectively than we could working separately.

That is why at the start of this year we embarked upon a detailed programme of work to examine Scotland’s position in the UK today and to make clear the choices that would face all of us if the UK family were to break up.

These papers have been detailed and evidence based and together set out a detailed case that shows every part of the UK makes a valuable contribution and that together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

When we go to the polls next year we’ll be asked the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’. We’ll be asked to put our cross in a box saying yes, or a box saying no.

That simple act – will be replicated right across Scotland from the highlands and islands, to the borders; in our great cities and our rural communities.

Each of us will be asked the same question. And when we answer – we will all do so on the basis of what is best for us as individuals, for our families and for our communities, now and in the future.

And the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom can be seen in our future as much as our past:

There are the challenges we already know about: by pooling our resources we are better placed to meet some of the demographic challenges that we will face in the future: funding pensions through contributions from the working populations of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland is more sustainable than simply trying to fund our ageing population in Scotland alone: you don’t need to be an expert economist to work that one out.

Then of course there are things that we can’t predict:

Fifteen years ago the idea of broadband roll out across the UK, including our remotest areas would have sounded like a pipe-dream.

And yet here we are, with UK wide funding helping to join us up and bring us all closer together. Twenty per cent of the UK broadband budget is being spent here in Scotland – that’s more than our fair share – and we can do this because we pool our resources across the UK.

We need to ask ourselves: what will the next broadband be? And will it be more sustainable to fund it by clubbing together as the UK or doing our own thing in a separate Scotland?

It is this past, present and future United Kingdom that we need to think about when we go into the polls next year.

White Paper

But right now attention is turning to the Scottish Government’s White Paper which will be published in just less than two weeks. And rightly so.

This is after all a long awaited document.

Whilst we have published our analysis – on the legal implications of independence, on financial services, on the economy, on the challenges of an oil fund, or on the currency – what we’ve so often heard in response is ‘wait for the White Paper’.

The First Minister tells us that this Paper will resonate down through the ages and Nicola Sturgeon has said it will answer all the questions – boy does it need to.

But before we get to the detail let’s start with ‘The ‘why?’. Why do the nationalists want independence?

Since signing the agreement with the Prime Minister over a year ago to ensure that we would have a referendum, the answer to ‘why’ seems to have become less clear, rather than more.

In the few areas where the Scottish Government have sought to offer any answers, they – ironically – seem obsessed with UK wide solutions. According to them:

We will leave the UK…but have a shared currency and keep the Bank of England working as lender of last resort;

We’ll leave the UK…. But continue to share a UK welfare system;

We’ll leave the UK….. but still get UK warships built in Scottish yards;

We’ll leave the UK…but still share a single set of financial regulations….

The logic of the Scottish Government’s position has left many scratching their heads in puzzlement. But in truth it is just part of a pattern we see from the Scottish Government: They are doing this to offer false reassurance. Independence would prove very different in practice and they know it. Right now all they are proving is that they are prepared to say anything and promise everything to try to win votes.

But let’s be generous and leave that most fundamental question of ‘why become independent’ to one side for a moment.

The Scottish Government have another duty in the White Paper: to explain how independence would work and what it would mean. This is an important decision for us all. The details matters. We cannot be offered a prospectus of ‘it will be alright on the night.’

Now we know that for many issues all the White Paper can do is provide a wish-list of what the Scottish Government might like to secure in negotiations:

An independent Scotland would need to sit down at the negotiating table with the rest of the UK – who would then be a separate state from us.

Sit down with the member states of the EU and the Allies of NATO to thrash out an enormous amount of very important detail.

In each case an independent Scottish state would be pursuing its interests, just as the other states would pursue their interests.

So the Scottish Government should take the opportunity in the White Paper to tell it straight about the fact that many important issues will need to be negotiated and they need to be upfront that there can be no guarantees in advance.

Fundamental questions

But that does not excuse the First Minister and his team for dodging some fundamental independence questions that they can answer.

The White Paper must be frank on a few fundamentals of independence if they are serious about bridging the credibility gap that exists with their plans.

Today I am posing three very straight-forward questions that need to be answered if people in Scotland are going to get any closer to knowing how independence will work and what it might mean for them.

Let’s start with the pound in our pocket. Or, to be precise, the UK pound sterling in our pocket.

This is fundamental.

The First Minister is fond of saying that the pound is as much Scotland’s as it is the rest of the UK’s. It is now, but if Scotland decided to leave the UK, we would also be leaving the UK currency.

Public international law is clear: the UK would continue. The UK’s currency would continue and the laws and institutions that control it like the Bank of England would continue…for the continuing UK

But if Scotland became an independent country, we would need to put in place our own currency arrangements; new currency arrangements.

Currency union

The First Minister says he wants a currency union with the rest of the UK.

The UK Government – and plenty of others – have pointed to the challenges of currency unions between different states. You only need to look at the Euro area to see that everything can appear fine in year one, and how quickly circumstances can change.

And there are plenty of examples of currency unions that have failed. When Czechoslovakia broke up the Czechs and Slovaks tried it. It lasted 33 days.

The bottom line is that a currency union may not be in the interests of Scotland or the continuing UK and it is highly unlikely to be agreed – not because of any malevolence, but because it wouldn’t work. It would be very foolish for anyone to vote for an independent Scotland on the basis that they will get to keep the pound. It’s high time that the Scottish Government stopped claiming that a currency union is a given and instead answer this first question: will the White Paper set out a credible Plan B on currency?

Pensions are another fundamental building block of any state. The UK and other developed countries are facing rising pension costs because of ageing populations. Independent forecasts by the ONS confirm that the demographic challenge Scotland faces is greater than the rest of the UK. We will have more elderly and retired individuals receiving pensions compared to those of working age who are paying taxes.

So my second question is will the White Paper set out how much more pensions will cost each of us in the future if we leave the UK and leave behind 90 per cent of the people that are currently paying into the larger UK pension pot?

Price tag

Finally, the overall price tag of independence is something we never hear anything about. John Swinney’s private paper to his Cabinet colleagues said a new tax system alone would cost more than £600m each year. Setting up a new Scottish state from scratch will not be cheap. The White Paper must tell us how much it will cost us to set up.

But in truth it’s not just the one off set up costs we need to think about.

In public we see the Scottish Government promising more and more ‘goodies’ for an independent Scotland. But people aren’t daft: we know that every goodie has to be paid for.

So I want to know how much we are expected to pay to go it alone as an independent state. Rather than making empty promises, the White Paper has to tell us how an independent Scotland would fill the black hole.

OK – I’ll admit – that’s more than three questions – trust me I could ask plenty more.

But what I’d really like to hear are the questions you want to see answered when you open up the White Paper.

Because this must not be a document that Governments alone pour over – as much as Alex Salmond might like it, this isn’t a debate between the UK and Scottish Governments.

Indeed despite the approach of those SNP members who question the right of ‘supposed Scots’ like me to speak out, this is a debate that each and every one of us has a right to be involved in: we each have a voice in this debate.

I hope to hear yours.

Alistair Carmichael – 2005 Speech to Liberal Democrat Conference

alistaircarmichael

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Carmichael in civil liberties to the Liberal Democrat Party Conference on 22nd September 2005.

If there is one issue which defines us as a party then surely it is liberty. For us to defend the right of the individual to live his or her life without undue interference from the state is as instinctive as it for Messrs Blair, Blunkett and Clarke to attack it.

Let us be clear. Being in favour of civil liberties is not about being “soft” on anyone. It is not about being soft on terrorism any more than it is about being “soft” on the anti-social behaviour that blights the lives of so many people in city centres and housing estates the length and breadth of our country. As Jim Wallace who was a formidable justice minister for four years in Scotland made clear yesterday, the liberty to bully abuse and intimidate your neighbour is not a civil liberty and those who do so will get no comfort or succour from this party.

To be fair, the New Labour government started well. The passing of the Human Rights Act incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into our laws was a major advance in protecting our freedoms. We supported that when they did it and we continue to support it today. What has become clear since, however, is that they had no idea what they were doing at the time. Since New Labour passed the Human Rights Act they have had little to say on the subject apart from lambasting and abusing the judiciary every time they implement it.

It is already clear when we return to Westminster in three weeks time we shall face another onslaught from a government determined to take control of every aspect of our lives. In the aftermath of the London bombings on 7th July the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary sought to establish a consensus on the measures that were needed to be taken. They were right to do so. Just as Mark Oaten and Charles Kennedy were right to respond positively as they did.  As ever, however, New Labour’s authoritarian instincts are kicking in. They now seek to push the boundaries of that consensus. Let me promise you this, conference, if a consensus ever emerges at Westminster that supports three months detention of suspects or the creation of new offences as vague and problematic as the glorification then that will be a consensus that will emerge without us. We shall not be part of it.

I have no doubt that we shall be misrepresented.  I have no doubt that we shall be abused. I have no doubt that we shall be accused of all manner of things. And do you know what?   I really don’t care. If we can not defend liberties as fundamental as these then what is the point of being in parliament? This is what I was elected by the people of Orkney and Shetland to do. Just as they elected Jim Wallace before me and Jo Grimond before him.

If civil liberties and human rights are important then they are important for everyone, regardless of nationality, race or religion. Just because someone has come here as an asylum seeker or has been brought here by a people trafficker to work in the sex trade or some other part of the black economy does not diminish their entitlement to fair and dignified  treatment by the state. That is why the government must now ratify without further delay the European Convention on the Trafficking of Human Beings. Even before that, however, there are changes that can and must be made now.

The recent publicity in Scotland surrounding the practice of dawn raids being made on the homes of families of failed asylum seekers  has shocked all right thinking people. The children’s Commissioner in Scotland has been unambiguous and absolute in her condemnation of it and she was absolutely right to do so. I wonder how many of those people who voted Labour in 1997 or again in 2001 or 2005 did so because they wanted to elect a government that would send immigration officials into a family home early in the morning to take children from their beds. It traumatises children. It demeans us all because it is done in our name by our government. It is barbaric and it has got to stop now.

Conference, we are to be asked to delete the part of this motion that asks us to deplore the planned introduction of compulsory identity cards and a national identity register.  I do not yet know why and I shall leave those who urge us to do so to explain their reasoning. I have to tell you, however, conference that I had the honour of leading for this party on the standing committee examining the ID Cards Bill. We went over that bill line by line and clause by clause. I have learned more about computerised identity databases and biometric information since May than I would ever have believed possible, let alone desirable. If I didn’t deplore the introduction of identity cards and the national identity register before I started that process then I certainly did by the time I finished it.

Conference, be quite clear. The introduction of identity cards is about a lot more than the issue of a piece of plastic to help us get access to our public services. It is in fact a fundamental rewriting of the relationship between the citizen and the state. The bill which is currently going through parliament places massive amounts power in the hands of the government to obtain hold and share information not just about who we are but also about where we have been and what we have done.

No doubt we shall be told that if we have nothing to hide then we have nothing to fear but those who hold that view fail to understand the nature of the relationship between the citizen and the state. It seems to assume that it is for the government to ask the citizen whether he or she has something to hide and that the citizen is somehow  answerable to the government. In a liberal society it is the other way round. The government is answerable to the citizen. The citizen should only have to justify themselves to the state if they are shown to have done something wrong.

The only saving grace about the government’s plans to introduce ID Cards is that you just know they are not going to work. The government is going to buy a computer system that will hold three pieces of biometric information about every citizen in the country, install card readers in every public office in the country, retain records of when and when that service is used. Aye right. I’ll believe it when I see it. This is the government that after years of trying has still not been able to buy a computer for the Child Support Agency that will work out 15% of an absent parent’s salary. Something most of us would call a calculator. The operation of identity cards is going to be a massive but as yet unquantified cost to the tax payer – or more likely the people who are to be compelled to have them. The LSE calculated that the cost to the individual required to pay for an identity card could be as much as three times the government estimates of £93. The best part of £300 for the privilege of having the government keep tabs on you. Conference if we do not deplore the erosion of our civil liberties then surely waste of public and private funds on this scale is something to be deplored.

History will record that this New Labour Government tried to rob us of some our most valuable freedoms. Let history also record that it was the Liberal Democrats who resisted and stopped them.