David Mundell: Scotland, the UK and a reformed European Union speech

Scotland Office

March 22
18:25 2016


Ladies and gentleman, I am very grateful to the Centre for European Reform for providing me with a platform to make these remarks on Scotland, the UK and a reformed European Union.

You describe yourself as pro-European but not un-critical which I think is a very healthy attitude to take.

I would like to start by saying that my thoughts are with the victims of the shocking atrocity in Brussels and their families.

It is poignant to be making a speech about the European Union today, when the city which has been its headquarters for so many years has been attacked in this way.

I want to speak to you today about the position of Scotland within a United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom within a reformed European Union.

The fact I am doing so in London, as the UK Governments Secretary of State for Scotland should not be seen as a paradox.

Thanks to the freedom which Scotlands membership of the United Kingdom gives to her people, thousands of Scots live and work here, helping to make it a vibrant capital of the UK and a great world city.

Our mark is everywhere.

From Alexander Flemings discovery of penicillin at St Marys Hospital in Paddington to J M Barries Peter Pan delighting visitors to Kensington Gardens to the amazing work of the ScotsCare charity, which has been helping out Scots and the children of Scots, here in London for over 400 years.

One of the great gateways to London is Kings Cross Station, which has gone through a remarkable transformation thanks to Scottish architect John McAslan.

Just up the road from here is one of the many London pubs doing, if youll forgive the pun, a roaring trade under the sign of the Red Lion - the ancient symbol of Scottish monarchy brought to London by another Scottish visitor, James VI, when he took the English throne, as James I, in 1603.

Scots in London have never been strangers from a distant land.

We are partners, colleagues and often family; living and working side by side with people from all over the UK, Europe and beyond.

As a Scot, I treasure the freedom I have to work in London and to enjoy what it has to offer.

It is the same freedom which a Welshman might use to start a new job in Edinburgh, or an Ulsterwoman to go and teach in Margate.

Scottish businesses benefit from the freedom they have to set up an office here in London, to access the worlds greatest financial centre on terms of total equality with a firm headquartered in England.

The same freedom which English firms have to trade and employ north of the Border.

The plumber in Gretna is free to take go and do a job in Carlisle.

The teenager in Chester is free to go and buy her first car from a neighbour in Flint.

This genuine freedom is and has always been the fundamental argument in favour of our United Kingdom.

All the great benefits which we have built up together in the years since our Union was created have flowed directly from it.

The family links, the economic ties, the cultural connections have come about in the way they have because of that freedom.

Without that freedom of movement, of capital, of services, wed have built less than we have, achieved less than we have, be less than we are.

This genuine freedom, the hallmark of the United Kingdom, is also something of a paradox, because it is achieved by pooling and sharing our sovereignty in these islands.

It is a genuine freedom, in contrast to the false freedom of separation.

If Scotland had voted to leave the United Kingdom, those who supported that outcome would have argued that we had achieved freedom from the UK.

Indeed the former First Minister dubbed Glasgow Freedom City.

But my case to you today is that this would be a false freedom, which would have restricted the life chances and opportunities available to people in Scotland.

And that despite some important differences between the two referendums the same can be said of the choice we face in June.

The phrase false freedom comes from a poem by John Dryden.

Celebrating the Restoration of Charles II (grandson of James VI of pub sign fame) to the thrones of England and Scotland, he said that the restoration of Monarchy and the end of the Cromwellian protectorate cut loose those real bonds false freedom did impose.

Britain leaving the EU would be another such false freedom which would impose real bonds on people in Scotland and across the UK.

Two Referendums

The referendum on Scottish membership of the UK in 2014 and the referendum on UK membership on of the EU in June are very different propositions, but they do share some fundamental similarities.

First, the differences: chiefly identity, history and emotion.

For many people in Scotland, Britishness is a fundamental part of their identity.

For them, the question of whether Scotland should be a part of Britain strikes at the heart of their self-definition.

The suggestion that Scotland might leave the UK, therefore, was a genuinely disturbing and upsetting prospect to those people.

The Union Flag is a potent symbol of loyalty for a significant number of Scots, though of course by no means all.

As my colleague Ruth Davidson has vividly pointed out, there are people who go to sleep at night underneath a Union Flag duvet cover.

But there are few but the most committed of Europhiles who would tuck themselves in under the twelve golden stars of the EU flag.

And that leads onto another big difference between Scotlands membership of the United Kingdom and the UKs membership of the EU: history.

The Union of Scotland with England and Wales, to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, occurred in 1707.

The United Kingdoms entry into the European Economic Community happened in 1973.

The Union of Scotland with England and Wales, to form a sovereign British state, has endured for centuries, seen us fight and win together wars of sacrifice and survival, and build a common British heritage, to which we have all contributed and of which we can all be proud.

The prospect of that centuries-old Union being broken in 2014 whilst an attractive prospect for a significant minority of people in Scotland sent a shiver down the spine of several hundreds of thousands of others, and was decisively rejected by a majority of over ten per cent.

Britains membership of the European Union is a question on a different emotional scale.

And that is a challenge for those who, like me, think Britains place is within a reformed EU.

In 2014, those of us who believed that membership of the UK was in Scotlands best interests didnt have to work too hard to make people understand the seriousness of the question being asked, or the scale of the consequences of that decision.

Now thats not to say that we didnt work hard we certainly did.

But when you spoke to people about that referendum, whatever their viewpoint, they didnt take much persuading that the question was of the first importance and that they needed to make their voice heard.

And that brings me onto my third difference a consequence of the previous two: emotional investment.

As the Prime Minister put it in his Bloomberg speech: we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.

The fact is that the 2014 referendum campaign, touching questions of identity and history which were close to peoples hearts, inspired mass participation amongst electors, and a record turnout.

One of the challenges which the Remain side in this referendum faces is making sure that those who believe Britain is stronger with a voice and a vote in the European Union actually go out and vote for that on the 23 June.

If they dont, theyll be leaving it to the minority who are passionately motivated by the European question to make the decision for them, perhaps leading to a result they would not like and which would be damaging to them and their families.

Thats why a big task facing all of us who think the UK is better off in Europe is making people understand both the risks of leaving, and the benefits we enjoy as a consequence of our membership of the EU.

That way, we can help everyone understand the importance of making their voices heard.

So lets be clear about the argument were making.

Thanks to the deal which David Cameron struck with his fellow EU leaders, we will be in the parts of Europe that work for us influencing the decisions that affect us but we will be out of the parts of Europe that do not work for us.

So as well as being out of ever closer union, we will never join the euro and never be part of Eurozone bailouts or the passport-free no borders area.

Britain and Scotland within it will be stronger, safer and better off by remaining in a reformed European Union.

Stronger because we can play a leading role in one of the worlds largest organisations from within, helping to make the big decisions on trade and security that determine our future.

Safer because we can work with our European partners to fight cross-border crime and terrorism.

And we should think closely about that today of all days.

Better off because British businesses will have full access to the single market, bringing jobs, investment and lower prices.

We have ensured the protection of the UKs rights as a country within the Single Market but outside the Eurozone.

The EU now has an ambitious agenda of economic reform.

It is committed to the reduction of reg

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