Tweet Follow @RPJblog
By Jason Michael
Germany owes little England no favours. It stands to gain from Britain’s capital flight and Scottish independence. Can you think of a better friend in Europe right now? Rallies for Scottish independence in Berlin are a very big deal.
Rallies in support of the United Kingdom and Brexit on the continent are conspicuous only for their complete absence. Our European neighbours are dumbfounded and indeed grimly amused by England’s decision to leave the European Union. Yet on Saturday a small group led by Germans for Yes marched through the German capital to the Reichstag where it held a rally in support of Scottish independence. Regardless of the relatively small number of people in attendance – bearing in mind that this was in Berlin and not Edinburgh or Glasgow – this rally is significant.
Nations exist on the international stage not because the nationals of nations say they exist – though this is important – they exist because other nations; the international community, recognise their existence. This cornerstone of international law is the Westphalian settlement, and the growing awareness of this in Scotland is motivating more people in the independence movement to look beyond the shores of Scotland in search of support for Scottish statehood. Berlin is the obvious first destination.
Butterfly Rebellion (@Butterfly_Reb) September 02, 2017
Echoing the sentiments of Ireland’s independence struggle of a hundred years ago Scotland, and for good reason, is turning to “our gallant allies in Europe.” Germany is in many respects the political, social, and economic heart of the today’s European Union, and – as one half of the Franco-Deutsch equation – Germany exerts significant influence on EU policy. That is to say that to fail to court German favour would be a massive mistake for Scotland.
What is even better than this is the fact that the direction of travel is not all one way. Germany is moving fast towards accepting not only the idea of Scottish independence, but supporting not merely our re-entry into the EU but our continued membership after independence. Two parties in the German parliament, the Reichstag, have adopted this position; namely the Free Democratic Party (the FBD) and the German Green Party (Die Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). These are by no stretch of the imagination fringe political parties, but the two most likely to form a coalition with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (the CDU) after the upcoming German elections.
Guy Verhofstadt, former Prime Minister of Belgium, the leader of the ALD Group in the European parliament, and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has made it clear that the EU simply cannot afford to lose Scotland. Where London has consistently refused to acknowledge the value of Scotland, Brussels is not prepared to lose us without a fight. We are, after all, the EU’s only oil producing economy. In light of Scotland’s rejection of Brexit, Verhofstadt signalled in June of last year that he was prepared to begin talks with the Scottish government even in advance of the formal start of the Article 50 negotiations. What this means, to quote Paul Kavanagh, is that Scotland has “friends in high places.”
Scotland now finds itself in a wonderful situation – one the BBC will not report – where it has the support of the most influential political players in the European Union, both in Brussels and in Berlin. So should ordinary people take this to the streets of the German capital – or to the streets of Brussels or Paris for that matter?
Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) June 24, 2016
Over three and a half million EU citizens live in the UK, an estimated 181,000 of which are resident in Scotland. Britain’s decision to leave the bloc will have ramifications for ordinary people and families the length and breadth of the Europe. In Germany, unlike the UK, citizens – that is voters – are being kept fully informed by their media of moves in Scotland and potential arrangements between Scotland the EU for Scottish independence and our continued membership.
By taking to the streets of Berlin German-Scots and Scots are raising the profile of the Scottish independence debate in Germany and informing German public opinion. Voters in Germany, keen not to disrupt the lives of their fellow Germans living in Scotland and in favour of keeping as much of the EU intact as possible, can then begin to shape their own government’s position on Scotland. As much as the unionists here in Scotland may mock the small crowd in Berlin on Saturday, this is how democracy works.
After the rather unfortunate events in Germany in the 1930s and 40s the German people take democracy quite seriously, and they are acutely aware that if Scotland is taken out of the EU it will be against the democratic will of the Scottish people. Germans don’t like this.
This offers us an opportunity for a potential Eingang into the heart of European politics and an Ausgang from the union that now threatens our democratic will and national wellbeing. Despite its assurances to Brussels the British government, by prematurely sending letter of expulsion under threat of detention – showing it already has them drafted, has already threatened the security of EU residents in the UK. As much as Europe cannot afford to lose Scotland, Scotland cannot afford to lose the skills citizens of other EU member states have brought to our country. The economic cost of this would inflict grave damage on Scotland. In reaching out to Europe, then, we are strengthening grassroots support over the EU for independence here, and this is what makes Saturday’s rally important.
Through the general election campaign in Germany it makes sense that German-Scots and Scots alike do their bit to influence how Germans in Germany will vote. Many of us have family, friends, and colleagues living and working in German – as is the case all over Europe – and so we must use this as our inroad for Scotland’s cause by contacting the people we know and letting them know how they can help us and Europe with their votes. Let’s get on the phone, on Facebook and Twitter, and let our German friends know how they can help.
German parties: Scotland should get ‘clear route’ to EU