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Scotland: Regionalism in Europe: Part 2

Speaker: SNP MP for Glasgow North Patrick Grady

Chair: Professor Leila Simona Talani from KCL

Regionalism in Europe after Brexit, on 16th January 2020 at KCL.

Patrick Grady on The Independence of Scotland

Patrick Grady is the Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow North. Before being an MP, he worked in International Development, mainly in partnership with Africa as part of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund.

History of the Scottish Identity

The Glasgow MP, Mr Grady, starts his speech by proving that Scotland has been an independent country for much longer than it has been member of the United Kingdom. Going back to the Roman Empire with the Antonine Wall in AD 142, which delimited the territory that the Romans had invaded creating a division between Scotland and England. Scotland did eventually become part of the UK by the Union of the Crown in 1707, when James the VI of Scotland became the James the I of England after the death of Elizabeth I. However, even though the union was real, Scotland retained its own legal system. To this day, part of the Scottish Identity is built on a legal and educational system that is distinct from that of the rest of the UK. Since the Scotland Act of 1998, the Scottish Parliament has the right to deal with devolved matters and the Westminster Parliament with reserved matters. This division over the rule of different matters, so he adds, “is the reason why Scotland is so advance in Climate Change compared to the policies that the House of Commons had put in place”. Another example that he puts forward is the band of smoking in public places, which was introduced in Scotland seven years before the rest of the United Kingdom.

Creation of the Scottish National Party

The SNP was founded in 1934 during a period of post-war nationalism. Thatcher's political era had a huge impact on Scottish politics. In the 1979 general election, Scotland voted overwhelmingly for the Labour Party, but the Conservative Party won having Thatcher as its leader. Her power had a profound economic impact on Scotland because she introduced the privatisation of local industries. This resulted in the rise of the campaign for a devolved Scottish Parliament, which was established in 1999.

In 2007, the SNP became the Government of the Scottish Parliament and decided to further develop its domestic policies, for example by abolishing tutuition fees for university students and by introducing free medical prescriptions. In addition, in 2011, the SNP returned to Parliament with an overall majority in Scottish Parliament, leading to the 2014 Referendum on Scottish independence. This was followed, Mr Grady added, by the outstanding result in 2015, when the SNP won a “record number of 56 seats in the House of Commons” beating the previous record of 11 seats. He concludes by saying that “this proves that the Scottish people want independence and want things to change in their country”.

Effect of Brexit on Scotland and the SNP’s view

In the historic referendum of 2016, Scotland voted unanimously to remain in the European Union. Patrick Grady says that Brexit will do great damage on the Scottish economy, particularly in terms of Scotland's moral value, which he calls "respect". Indeed, he asserts that it is against the union of the United Kingdom to implore a decision that was not chosen by the Scottish people. He believes that this decision is “fundamentally undemocratic” and lacks respect toward Scotland. He adds that democracy is evolving and that people have the right to change their minds about Brexit. By saying this he suggests that the action of the UK to go forward with Brexit is the reason why Scotland demands a second referendum. The Scottish Parliament proposed a middle way to a hard Brexit by keeping the UK and Scotland in the Single Market and the Customs Union, but this was rejected by the UK government. It is noteworthy that the distinction made by the SNP member in saying "United Kingdom and Scotland" shows the SNP's believes that Scotland is an independent unit.

In conclusion, when asked “Why trade the UK for the EU?”, he replied that the EU respects the policy of equals, which the UK does not adopt. This policy implies that smaller countries have the same voice as bigger countries in the European Union. This equality of partnerships between countries is what the UK lacks when dealing with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Overall, Scotland wants to leave the UK but wants to be part of the EU, and this is a dilemma that is yet to be resolved.

Natalia Vasnier, Undergraduate at King's College London Sources :

Image n°1: By photographer Duncan Bryceland/REX/Shutterstock Image n°2 : Home | Scottish Parliament Website

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