Speech to the Scottish Conservative Conference

Struan gave the following speech on 15 March 2014 to the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in Edinburgh.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

It is with a little sadness that I will address you this morning for the last time as your MEP. I have served in that role for the past 15 years; it has been a great privilege and I am immensely grateful to all of you in the party who have supported me throughout that period and worked tirelessly for my re-election at three major European elections. I know now that you will transfer your energy and enthusiastic support to Ian Duncan to ensure that he takes his place as Scotland’s voice in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Ian has worked hard over the past year, touring the country from end to end, making his mark as our next Conservative Euro MP and he needs your support in the forthcoming campaign.

The Euro elections in May will be a dress rehearsal for the September referendum on independence and it is of vital importance that we don’t allow the SNP to claim victory. That’s why we need the greatest ever effort for this Euro campaign.

The Nats constantly accuse us of being negative and of spreading fear in the independence debate. So today I am going to be positive. I am going to explain a few positive reasons why people should vote YES for Scottish independence.

First of all if you want to join the Eurozone…..VOTE YES. Alex Salmond’s plans to keep the pound have been shot to pieces and neither he, nor Nicola Sturgeon has a Plan B.

All this stuff about keeping the pound has been a red herring from Day one in any case. New EU Member States have no option but to join the Eurozone whenever their economies converge. Nicola Sturgeon argues that we could have a referendum like Sweden and ask the people of Scotland if they wanted to join the Eurozone. But the Swedish referendum was long before the Lisbon Treaty. You can’t keep the pound Nicola and you can’t opt out of the Eurozone.

So the only answer is for an independent Scotland to join the beleaguered Euro, where we can look forward to having our annual budget scrutinised in Berlin and Brussels and our fiscal policy dictated by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt! The cost to Scotland of joining the Eurozone, while our main-trading partner south of the border continues to use the pound, would be an estimated £468 million per year, costing around 9,600 jobs in the Scottish economy.

Let me give you another positive reason for voting YES. If you want to join Schengen and erect border controls between Scotland and England - our biggest trading partner – then you will have to VOTE YES. The cost in delays and disruption in manned border controls at Gretna, Coldstream and Stranraer would cost £105 million per year. But the massive additional impact on Scotland’s economy of joining the Eurozone and Schengen would be catastrophic. We’ve heard it from Standard life, Lloyds Banking Group, Aggreko and a host of other huge businesses employing tens of thousands of people in Scotland, who all say they might have to re-locate to England.

And here’s another positive reason to vote YES. If you want to lose Scotland’s share of the annual EU budget rebate, VOTE YES for more costly membership of Europe. Not only will we lose our £295 million share of the annual rebate, we will have to fork out £46 million a year to pay for England’s rebate! Reduced government expenditure and reduced demand across the economy would cost a further 7,000 jobs. Nicola Sturgeon came to Brussels last year and assured us that keeping our share of the rebate in an independent Scotland was a ‘red line’ for the SNP. But as always, this is completely untrue. No country will ever again be allowed to have a rebate. The UK rebate is deeply unpopular, as the other Member States have to fund it. Maggie Thatcher made sure the UK rebate was carved in stone and it will continue, but if we vote YES we will certainly lose our share.

Do you need even more positive reasons to vote YES? If you want to pay VAT on books, magazines, newspapers, children’s clothes and a host of other things, then vote YES.

The European Commission wrote to me confirming that the zero rate of VAT, which the UK enjoys at the present time on an HMRC list of 54 different items, even including shipbuilding and aircraft construction and maintenance, will end. No new accession state can be allowed a derogation for zero-rated VAT and an independent Scotland would have to add VAT at the rate of at least 15% to all of these items, while they continue to face 0% VAT in the rest of the United Kingdom. This would cost the Scottish economy billions every year and would destroy competition between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

If you want Scotland to become the Saudi Arabia of renewables and to bristle with giant, useless wind turbines from end to end, that England will refuse to pay for, then VOTE YES. Alex Salmond’s obsession with wind has already driven over one million Scottish households into actual fuel poverty, and that’s with our neighbours in England currently sharing the cost.

But why would England wish to continue paying for expensive wind power from Scotland, when they will have constructed several state-of-the-art, third generation nuclear power stations, which can produce CO2 free electricity at four times the efficiency and half the cost of wind. In other words, if you want soaring energy bills to pay for intermittent wind power – VOTE YES.

If you want to lose our voice on the UN Security Council and in the G8 leading economic nations, then you’ll have to VOTE YES. Scotland shares in the international influence enjoyed by the UK, in major global organisations. That will all disappear when we join Ireland and Iceland in Alex Salmond’s Arc of Prosperity!

There you are. A whole series of reasons why Scotland should vote YES for independence… So please don’t accuse me of being negative, Alex!

Isn’t it fascinating how the SNP’s independence debate is unravelling over Europe? First we had the question of whether or not an independent Scotland would become an overnight and seamless member of the EU. Barroso and Van Rompuy said no, but Alex Salmond said they were wrong.

They said that Article 49 of the Treaty would be used, meaning Scotland would have to apply for membership like any other accession state. But Alex Salmond said that he preferred Article 48. Well no-one gives a damn what you prefer Alex, it is Barroso and Van Rompuy who will decide.

Jose-Manuel Barroso made it abundantly clear on the Andrew Marr Show on 16th February, when he said again that Scotland would have to join the queue as an accession state and that we will require the unanimous backing of all 28 EU Member States. He reminded us that Spain has already used its veto against Kosovo and concluded that it will be “almost impossible” for a breakaway Scotland to join the EU.

Then Mark Carney – Governor of the Bank of England – said that an independent Scotland would have to cede sovereignty to England if we wished to keep the pound and Alex Salmond said that he was wrong and that we could have a currency union without surrendering our fiscal powers.

When George Osborne, Ed Balls and Danny Alexander all lined up to say you can’t have a currency union with England, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon said they were wrong and that it was simply bullying tactics.

You know it all reminds me of the story of the mother who was watching her son’s passing out parade in the Black Watch and she commented afterwards, “they were all oot o’step except oor Jock!” Apparently everyone, from the President of the European Commission, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England, are out of step and only Alex Salmond has all the answers. Well I have news for you, Alex, divorce can be a messy affair. The statistics show that only 5% of men kiss their wives goodbye when they leave their homes, but 95% of men kiss their homes goodbye when they leave their wives! If we leave Great Britain, Alex, don’t be surprised if Brittania decides to keep the house!

The huge and costly 650 page WHITE PAPER was nothing more than an SNP manifesto, published at the taxpayers’ expense; our job at the Euro elections in May and at the referendum on 18th.  September is to consign it to the dustbin of history!

But here is some more shocking news that no-one has yet picked up!  I was speaking to some East European MEPs last week and they told me in no uncertain terms that they will insist on transitional measures being applied to any new EU accession state. They said that they had to suffer harsh transitional measures and that if Scotland wishes to become the 29th EU Member State, it can expect no special favours. They spelled out to me what these transitional measures would entail:

When the ten East European and other countries acceded to the EU in 2004, they were faced with several serious restrictions. Firstly subsidies to farmers were phased in over a period of ten years starting at only 25% and rising to 30% then 35% and then increasing by 10% per year until they reached parity with the rest of Europe only this year. This applied to the Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenians, Poles, Hungarians and Baltic States who joined in 2004, but it has also been applied to the Bulgarians and Romanians who joined in 2007 and all of them are very bitter about it and they have vowed to impose the same restrictions on any new Accession state, including Scotland. Similarly, when Croatia joined the EU only last year, we applied a restriction of 70% on their budget for fisheries, rising 10% per year, until they will finally reach parity in 2016.

So Croatian fishermen will feel the pinch, as well as Croatian farmers.

Secondly, the Act of Accession allows for a 7 year maximum restriction on the freedom of movement of workers. As we know, this was applied to Romania and Bulgaria when they joined the EU and only ended on 1st January this year, so don't be surprised if they insist on similar restrictions being applied to Scottish workers.

Thirdly, there was a 5-year restriction period for transport carriers from the new Accession states to operate national road haulage services in other Member States. So Scotland’s international transport companies could suffer a similar serious blow.

I have no doubt at all that Alex Salmond and Nicola Nicola Sturgeon will once again label these remarks as Tory scaremongering, but the fact remains that under the terms of the Lisbon treaty An independent Scotland not only requires the unanimous backing of all 28 EU Member States, before it can accede to the Union, it also requires the approval of an absolute majority of MEPs, meaning that 377 MEPs would have to vote for Scotland's accession in a full plenary session in Strasbourg.

There is no doubt that the cost of achieving majority support from MEPs would be the application of these severe restrictions and transitional measures which would devastate our farmers, fishermen, hauliers, and ex-pat workers.

So, Ladies & Gentlemen, now that you’ve heard all these positive reasons why we should vote YES, can we give one final resounding positive message to Alex Salmond. I’m going to ask you a question and I want you all to shout YES at the top of your voices.  

DO YOU THINK WE ARE BETTER TOGETHER?

DO YOU WANT TO SEE SCOTLAND REMAIN PART OF THE UNITED KINGDOM? 

DO YOU THINK ALEX SALMOND IS TALKING BALONEY ON EUROPE?

Thank you very much.