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SNP’s secret tour to keep EU bid alive

Steven Gethins MP
Steven Gethins MP

AN SNP envoy has embarked on a whistle-stop tour of European capitals to drum up support for Scotland staying in the EU.

The party’s Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins has been on a series of secret jaunts to European capitals as efforts to get Scotland out of the Brexit process are stepped up.

Gethins has been in Brussels, Paris and Belfast, with a stop in Berlin only dropped at the last minute due to last week’s vote on Trident in the Commons.

It is understood SNP bosses are pushing the idea of what has been dubbed a “reverse Greenland”.

Technically part of Denmark, Greenland left the EU in 1985 and the Nationalists are hopeful a deal can be struck that would allow the UK to leave Europe but Scotland to remain.

Last week UKIP MEP David Coburn claimed that, in a meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, he was told Scotland could not remain a member of the EU when the UK left.

In addition, Spain and France have both distanced themselves from the idea of Scotland, where the majority of voters rejected Brexit, remaining in the EU.

But SNP figures are increasingly confident they’ll get their way.

Gethins said: “In politics, where there’s a will there’s a way. Brussels is the home of innovative political solutions and I’m confident that there’s an innovative way of making this work for the UK, for the EU and for Scotland. It’s really important to reach out to our partners in Europe at this time.

“The reaction has been very supportive and sympathetic. There are huge levels of interest in Brexit, of course, but also in Scotland in particular.”

Gethins, who has given evidence to the French parliament on Brexit, added: “I was surprised at the extent of support in Paris. Every question was about Scotland and every one was supportive.”

However, Madrid may be the capital most difficult to crack. The Spanish are known to be concerned that any special treatment given to Scotland could encourage separatists in the region of Catalonia.

Gethins is due in Warsaw later in the year but as yet has no plans to take the Scottish case to Spain. The MP for North East Fife continued: “There is a cross-party will to stay in the EU in Scottish politics. This isn’t just an SNP thing.”

However, despite the political drive to stay in Europe nearly 40% of Scottish voters backed the Leave campaign.

Gethins added: “Around one million people voted to leave and we have to be mindful of that, but we must also respect the will of the majority of Scots which was to stay in the EU. In democracy the majority trumps the minority.”

This might seem a strange thing to say given that less than two years ago the majority of Scots decisively voted to stay in the UK, yet the SNP are now agitating for a second independence referendum.

However, Gethins explained: “The Scottish Government stood on a manifesto that clearly said if there was a change of material circumstances they reserved the right to go for another referendum. That’s clearly happened with the Brexit vote.”

Analysis

A MONTH on from the shock Brexit vote, the SNP’s “love boat diplomacy” towards all things EU shows no sign of docking soon.

Much like after the indepen-dence referendum in 2014, the SNP has moved quickly to turn being on the losing side to its political advantage.

In truth, it was a bit of an open goal.

With the UK Government in turmoil and Labour embarking on a fresh round of navel-gazing, the SNP was primed to tap into the feeling of disquiet among the majority of Scots who backed Remain.

But there was disquiet in Europe, too. The Brexit vote was a serious slap in the face for the EU and SNP hierarchy was quick to realise this, love-bombing Europe at every opportunity.

But we’re now moving beyond the warm words and photo opportunities. Nicola Sturgeon has to influence both sides of the UK’s Brexit negotiation to try and reach her end goal.

Brussels has been receptive, if noncommittal, so far. But London will be a tougher port of call.


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