Illiberal Undemocrats and the EU referendum struggle in Scotland

[Sunday]

The “Liberal Democrat” leadership contest is all about presentation.

That’s not my opinion, the two candidates admit as much – both of them Orange Bookers (that is to say, privateers) with no real differences of opinion on policy. Here’s on example: liberal democracy. Both Chris Huhne and Cameron-copy Nick Clegg are agreed that the Lib Dems won’t vote with the Tories to ensure there is a referendum on the new EU treaty…

I suspect that the deposed Sir Menzies Campbell might have wobbled and whipped MPs to vote with the Tories – if only because of the fear the Tories would hold it against them. And William Hague has promised to use the issue in future campaigns, particularly in marginal seats and where the Liberals have a slim majority.

Anyway, to follow up on John Foster’s article on the SNP’s view of Europe, which I posted yesterday, here’s a report from The Morning Star on the campaign for a referendum on the new EU consti-treaty:

Scotland united
ANN DOUGLAS reports on last week’s meeting in Glasgow, which brought together a wide range of opponents of the new EU treaty.

GORDON Brown’s proposed imposition of the EU reform treaty is meeting strong opposition in Scotland.

Last week, an important meeting in Glasgow saw Jackson Cullinane, representing the Scottish Trades Union Congress general council, national secretary of the Scottish National Party Duncan Ross and Ian Davidson, Labour MP for South-West Glasgow all expressing their conviction that the treaty should be put to a popular referendum.

Cullinane, who is deputy Scottish secretary of Unite-T&G, noted that both the Scottish TUC and the British TUC now had a policy in support of a referendum.

“The EU reform treaty is virtually identical to the EU constitution rejected in 2005 by the French and the Dutch. The British government was pledged to a referendum then and it should be committed to one now,” he said.

“Issues of particular concern to trade union members are the treaty’s endorsement of the free-market principle and its requirement for the liberalisation of public services. These issues will only be properly debated if there is a referendum.”

Duncan Ross stressed that the SNP wanted a future in which Scotland could play an independent role within the European Union and its government was free to speak directly for the needs of its people.

At the same, it was also important to defend the right of people to take a direct decision on the treaty. There might also be concerns for the SNP about the treaty itself.

“If control over fishing and fishing quotas has the same status as in the 2004 document, the SNP will need to consider its position very carefully,” Ross said.

Ian Davidson MP said he was convinced that, as in 2004, the pressure of opinion would eventually bring the government to accept the need for a referendum.

“There are more than 100 Labour MPs who have now expressed their wish for a referendum. A key turning point has been the report of the EU scrutiny committee. This has challenged the government’s claim that the treaty was significantly different from the 2004 constitution,” Davidson pointed out.

“More important still, Parliament’s legal advisers have also queried the long-term validity of the government’s ‘red line’ opt-outs in face of legal challenge by the European Court of Justice.”

For the Scottish Labour Campaign for Socialism, Vince Mills argued that Gordon Brown’s support for the reform treaty represented a key facet of new Labour’s big-business alignment.

“We need to expose the treaty for what it is. It both opens up far more of the public sector to private capital and creates the basis for what new Labour describes as modernising the labour market – that is, the intensified exploitation of the workforce,” Mills said.

From Ireland, Tony Coughlan of the Irish National Platform said that the treaty raised fundamental democratic issues for all countries in the EU.

“The treaty takes democracy from national parliaments. It thereby strengthens the executive against the legislature and intensifies the trend towards authoritarian government,” Dr Coughlan stormed.

He noted that, in Northern Ireland, both the leading parties in government – Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party – were united in advocating the need for a referendum and their opposition to the reform treaty.

The meeting was organised by the Scottish Campaign against Eurofederalism, which is supported by numerous local trades union councils and by UNISON Scotland and Unite-T&G in Scotland. It was agreed that the key focus of campaigning should be to raise the issue with all Labour MPs in Scotland, both directly and by letter.

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