William Hague – 2014 Speech on Scottish Independence


Below is the text of the speech made by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, in Glasgow on 17th January 2014.

It is a pleasure to be in the Lighthouse, this iconic building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the man who put Glasgow Style on the map.

One century on, your city’s reputation is riding high, for good reason, and it will rise even higher this summer when you host the Commonwealth Games.

Over the last three months the Queen’s Baton Relay has wound its way through 28 countries, carried from Asia to Australia to Africa, from India to Rwanda.

In each country it has been greeted by enthusiastic crowds.

And in each country it has been supported by our High Commissions, who have seized the opportunity to promote Scotland and all it has to offer. They arranged for haggis to be sampled in New Zealand and Scottish salmon in Singapore; they brought Scottish music to Ghana, Brunei and Kenya; and they told the world about great Scottish companies from bus manufacturers to Whisky distilleries.

When it comes to what we do to promote Scotland, these events are just the tip of the iceberg, but they show how the UK’s extensive diplomatic network and our longstanding relationships support Scottish success, and how Scottish culture, tradition and innovation enrich Britain’s reputation and impact in the world.

As Foreign Secretary I am immensely proud to represent the whole United Kingdom. That does not mean I am any less proud to be a Yorkshireman or to have been Secretary of State for Wales. But I feel strongly that the United Kingdom is greater than the sum of its parts. I am convinced that the different peoples, traditions, languages, and landscapes that make up the United Kingdom are a vital part of who we are and the reason why we have been able to achieve so much together; something to be treasured, not to be torn apart.

And I feel deeply that what is at stake this year is not only Scotland’s future but all our future, because Scotland leaving the United Kingdom would diminish us all.

Of course those voting in the referendum must be forensic in weighing up the arguments. That is essential for any people charting their course in an uncertain and dangerous world. It is a duty owed not only to those living in Scotland today but to the future generations that will have to live with the decision.

The paper we present today sets out the facts and it is clear that the advantages of Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom are indisputable in foreign policy as they are in every other area of our national life. A Scotland outside the UK would find itself less connected in an increasingly networked world, less able to advance its interests in an ever more competitive global economy and less able to influence decisions in a shifting international order.

But there is more at stake even than that. At stake is what we can – and do – stand for together as a beacon of human rights, as a determined advocate of democracy and the rule of law and as a central force in the fight against extreme poverty and for women’s rights. At stake are the resources we all have to draw on, born of the self-sacrifice and hard graft of generations of our forbears, that mean that together we can approach the changing global landscape with pride and confidence and optimism. At stake are the relationships and the international standing we have built together. None of these things are easy to quantify. But people in the rest of the world clearly see their worth, as I hear all the time in my work overseas.

When people and governments in other countries look at the United Kingdom they see one of the most successful political and economic unions ever known and an outward looking country with a global reach that is positioning itself to flourish in a changing world. They see a cultural powerhouse that benefits from its many distinctive literary traditions under the great umbrella of the global language we call English; and a whole set of institutions and relationships nurtured over the course of our history that give us huge advantages; they see a shared endeavour that has yielded inspiring achievements; and they wonder why anyone would want to break up such a successful and promising union. It is something we often take for granted but it is not something to give up lightly.

I am conscious of course that this is not the picture the Scottish Government would like to paint. This paper, on the EU and international considerations around Scottish independence, is the first to be launched since their White Paper in November and the claims in that paper call for the kind of forensic examination I mentioned because the Scottish Government continues to state as fact what they know to be uncertain.

Let’s be clear about four things that we do know and that this paper sets out.

Currently, people in Scotland share a right to be represented by one of the world’s biggest and best diplomatic networks, made up of 14,000 people spread out over 267 locations in 154 countries and 12 territories.

This is three times the size of the network of 70 to 90 diplomatic offices proposed by the Scottish Government for an independent Scotland.

With this network, people in Scotland are represented on all of the world’s major economic, political and defence bodies.

Whether or not a Scot is in the chair, our diplomats do all they can to fight in defence of Scottish interests. And they display the same professionalism when they are standing up for the interests of Wales, England or Northern Ireland too.

When these diplomats speak, everybody knows they represent the world’s sixth largest economy, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and NATO, and the third largest country in Europe. The Scottish Government maintains that only they should speak for Scotland. But it’s one thing to speak and another to be heard.

The world of diplomacy is intensively competitive. An ambassador from an independent Scotland arriving in Washington would find that he or she was the 179th ambassador in town. With changes coming in on voting rules later this year, larger states will have relatively more weight in EU decision-making – and smaller states less. And, as the paper shows, while an independent Scotland would indeed have a seat in some international bodies, in others it would have to share, and in some it would have no seat at all.

My second point is on trade. As Foreign Secretary, I have put our prosperity at the heart of our foreign policy and this is a top priority for the years ahead.

Boosting overseas trade is just as vital to the economic recovery in Scotland as the rest of the UK. Currently, Scottish businesses draw on the expertise of UK Trade & Investment, a network that covers 169 offices in over 100 markets representing 98% of global GDP.

This network is six times the size of the current network of 27 Scottish Development International offices which the Scottish Government plans to use as the basis for its trade support. And UKTI can rely on the support of all UK Ministers in their contacts with other countries. As Foreign Secretary I have promoted Scotch Whisky with very genuine enthusiasm on countless foreign trips, arguing for and helping to achieve improved market access and protection against counterfeit products.

Even if an independent Scotland were eventually to offer trade support in each of the 70 to 90 diplomatic offices it plans, the network would still only be a fraction of the size of that offered by UKTI right now.

UKTI provides the overseas network used by Scottish Development International, which it also helps to fund. Last year alone, it helped nearly 2,000 Scottish businesses.

Here in Glasgow, a UKTI office provides grants to firms to attend over 400 trade shows each year: we’re sending Scottish engineering firms to Germany, IT firms to the United States and biotech firms to Brazil.

And UKTI also helps woo investors, who last year generated 13,500 jobs in Scotland. Three-quarters of these investment projects were won with UKTI help.

When it comes to education, that other great Scottish asset, Scottish universities can draw on the support of British Council offices in over 100 countries around the world, which have helped to attract more than 40,000 overseas students a year to Scotland.

And you will have seen that the European Commission has cast doubt on the legality of the Scottish Government’s plans to continue charging university tuition fees for English, Welsh and Northern Irish students if Scotland becomes independent.

My third point relates to that primary task for almost all foreign services, which is to look after their citizens overseas.

Currently, Scottish people are entitled by right to seek help from the UK’s consular network.

At any one time, this includes over 800 full-time, dedicated, trained professionals, for whom a routine day’s work can involve thefts, plane crashes, abductions, imprisonments, hospitalisations, violent weather, forced marriage and almost every form of misadventure that can and sadly does befall British people overseas. Last year alone, they answered around one million enquiries from members of the public.

The Scottish Government knows it is not able to match this. They are hoping that an independent Scotland would be able to piggy-back on the consular support offered by other EU member states.

Fourth, the Scottish people can be proud that together we are the second largest donor of aid in the world, with the power and reach to support the values that all of us on the British Isles hold dear.

In 2012, organisations supported by the Department for International Development gave 97.2 million people food aid, and immunised 46 million children against preventable diseases.

In the three years to 2013, UK support paved the way for 30 million people, over half of them women, to work their way out of poverty by giving them access to financial services; it helped almost six million children to go to primary school; and prevented 13 million children and pregnant women from going hungry.

In Syria, we are helping refugees shivering through a bitter winter and we have just announced a further £100 million in support; in the Philippines, we are providing aid for families whose homes have been washed away; and in South Sudan we have sent equipment to stop people dying from water-borne disease.

The Scottish Government says that it would spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on aid, but the United Kingdom is already committed to doing that. In fact, the UK is the first country in the G8 to reach this target. And the advantages of scale mean when we give as one our aid goes further.

And we don’t just give together, we campaign and work together for our shared values. One of the issues I feel most strongly about is the advancement of women’s rights. I believe passionately that the full realisation of social, political and economic rights for women is the great strategic prize of our century.

That’s one of the reasons why I launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and why the UK will host this year an unprecedented global summit designed to ask nations to confront the horrors of warzone rape once and for all. And the same commitment to ending discrimination, violence and exploitation runs through the Modern Slavery Bill the Home Secretary is introducing, and through DFID’s work to unlock the potential of girls and women.

But none of this is easy and on all these issues we need to take other countries with us, shift attitudes and change minds. To make a difference we have to call on all the resources and relationships at our disposal. The Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict which we put forward in the UN in September has been endorsed by 138 countries, all of whom are now committed to tackling impunity for the perpetrators of warzone rape, giving aid and justice to survivors and putting their weight behind a new practical measure to improve the investigation and documentation of these horrific crimes. This is the kind of result we can achieve together as a United Kingdom and there is still much more for us to do.

So these are facts that we know. Let me move on now to what we can’t know.

As the Minister for Europe noted this week, there are pronounced question marks over an independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union. Based on the evidence we have, it is unlikely to be as easy as the Scottish Government makes out.

We have statements from those who are in the best position to know.

The President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso has said that any region leaving an existing member state would have to reapply for membership.

This point was underlined by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy who said that “a new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply any more on its territory.”

Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy has pointed out that any region that seceded would require unanimous support to rejoin. Even the nationalist Catalan leader has stated that secession could mean exclusion from the EU.

No-one knows for certain how long it would take for an independent Scotland to become an EU member but one thing is for sure – it is not reasonable for the Scottish Government to expect what they have claimed would be a “seamless transition”.

The second question mark is over the euro.

Under the terms of the EU Treaties, all new Member States are obliged to make the political and legal commitment to join the single currency.

Only Denmark and the UK have a permanent opt-out, and all countries that have joined the EU since the 1990s have been formally required to commit to adopt the euro.

The Scottish Government doesn’t want to join the euro, but people in Scotland cannot be sure it would have the political capital to resist the pressure to join. Without an opt-out, Scotland would face greater EU oversight of its spending decisions and broader economic policy long before it joined the euro.

The third question mark is over Schengen.

The Scottish Government wants to remain in the same common travel area as the UK and Ireland, but membership of the Schengen area has been part of the EU legal framework since 1999 and all new members of the EU since that time have been required to commit to joining.

Only the UK and Ireland have a permanent opt-out, and it would take substantial diplomatic clout to negotiate a similar deal without any guarantees of the result up-front.

There are other assumptions in the White Paper that Danny Alexander will discuss.

It is clear that every voter has to look at what independence would mean for the future.

The Scottish Government says that Scotland faces a once-in-a-generation opportunity to choose between moving forward as an independent nation or standing still. I agree that this debate is about opportunity, not just for those who vote in September, but for Scotland’s next generation. I don’t agree that Scotland is standing still, nor indeed is the wider world and that’s the point.

We live in a time of unceasing and accelerating change, a time when as a nation or as individuals, we should aim to draw on every resource at our disposal.

When I speak to younger people here, optimistic, ambitious and with their whole lives ahead of them, many will say they are 100% Scottish, but that doesn’t mean that they should be denied the advantages of British citizenship that are theirs by right.

Being a member of this historic union gives people in Scotland the opportunity to do more good in the world; to exert an influence on global politics or economies; even to represent Team GB at the Olympics where we came third in the medals table in 2012, with Scots and English athletes sharing the podium and showing what we can achieve together.

It gives the security of belonging to a nation of 63 million people; with one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world; and a tried and tested defence and security network which is the envy of many other nations and will help to keep the Commonwealth Games secure this summer.

It also guarantees a British passport, which provides instant access to our extensive diplomatic, consular and trade networks and the most professional help worldwide for any Scot travelling or doing business overseas.

When Scottish people go to the polls in September, the Yes campaign will make great claims about the romance of national destiny. Uniquely among all the choices we face in life, they will present the choice for Scotland to leave the UK as pure gain and no loss. It is an astonishing claim because the assurances they are giving are based on very shaky ground. On the terms of this paper alone, they are offering a fraction of what Scotland already has. There are great risks, and it would be wrong for us to pretend otherwise.

Making a decision to remain within the United Kingdom is a positive choice – reinforcing what we already have and reaffirming what more we can be if we continue to work together.

In the end, this decision is Scotland’s to take. I hope Scotland will choose to remain in the United Kingdom and that together we can continue to act for our common good and our common beliefs and values.

Thank you.