Callum McCaig: EFTA case has "strong merits" we should consider

In an interview with CommonSpace the MP for Aberdeen South lays out the options open to the Scottish Government in its relationship with Europe

CALLUM MCCAIG, SNP MP for Aberdeen South, has told CommonSpace in an exclusive interview that the party has to and will consider EFTA as a half-way house during Brexit negotiations and for Scotland’s future post independence.

The MP, who represents the party at Westminister on energy and climate change, stressed that he and the party leadership still believed that the EU should be the final and settled option for Scotland regardless of the actions of the UK.

However, he suggested that it is important the whole party and wider independence movement are involved in making sure diverse views on what Scotland’s European relationships should be, are heard.

The comments follow revelation’s published by CommonSpace that the Norwegian Government would keep an “open mind” to Scotland applying and joining EFTA, the free trade body outside the EU but connected by trade.

Not sure what EFTA is? Click here to read more

Speaking to CommonSpace he said: “There is a balance that needs to be struck. There’s full EU membership – where I stand. But I understand that this may not go down well with fishing communities for example and understandably so. Is the halfway house, so to speak, of EFTA a good idea? It has some pretty strong merits.

“I think it’s a position that we should consider and I think it’s a proposition that is being taken very seriously at all levels. I mean I think the wonderful thing about the SNP is that it is the members who are the core and direction of where the party wants to go or how it wants to tackle these important questions. That discussion and the shaping of how a campaign message is put is for the membership to decide. So it’s not for the leadership to say we’re going to this unilaterally.” 

In a second referendum, the issue of Scotland’s international connections will be a vital issue as each side will attempt to convince voters that their constitutional position will ensure the best trade and diplomatic ties for Scotland.

“All these options have benefits in terms of a continued relationship with Europe.” Callum McCaig

Over one million Scots voted to leave the European Union, constituting 38 per cent of the population. 62 per cent voted to remain in the EU, including a majority in all 32 local council areas in Scotland. The concern from some figures in the party is that a referendum so closely associated with membership of the EU will alienate a section of the pro-independence supporting block who also voted leave.

Thirty Five per cent of SNP voters voted to leave, but McCaig is of the view that the debate has to be grounded in Scotland’s democratic choice first and then a conversation about Scotland’s ability to choose its European partnerships second. This may come as comfort to those Scots voters who voted leave but were not necessarily motivation by the racial animosity of the leave campaign in England. Fishing and agricultural communities tend to be more eurosceptic than the general population across the UK for reasons relating to disputes over regulations in those industries.  

“And the leadership gets this. I think the core leadership understand that the Yes coalition is broad especially when you think along the Leave/Remain axis”, McCaig added.

“Is the halfway house so to speak of EFTA a good idea? It has some pretty strong merits.” Callum McCaig

He said: “All these options have benefits in terms of a continued relationship with Europe. But I think the key is that the economic and social aspect that comes with membership of the single market and the four freedoms are of limitless benefit. One that the UK is most fiercely against, especially freedom of movement. Personally, if you have freedom of capital and no freedom of movement its the poor who will suffer the most. Which is probably why they [Tories] want it.”

Yesterday (Friday 17 March) the SNP spring conference passed a motion demanding that EU nationals and non-Commonwealth citizens have their voting rights guaranteed and strengthened. The motion called for all that have lived and worked in Scotland for five years to be ensured their voting rights. There are 181,000 EU nationals living in Scotland at the present and many see their vote as potentially crucial in a second independence referendum.

Picture: CommonSpace

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