Scotland politics

Alex Salmond demands answers over EU veto decision

EU flag
Image caption Out of the 27 EU countries, only the UK rejected the changes

First Minister Alex Salmond has written to the prime minister asking him to explain why he vetoed European Union treaty changes.

He accused David Cameron of "blundering" into altering the UK's relationship with the EU.

Mr Salmond is worried about the impact the decision could have on Scotland.

The SNP leader has asked Mr Cameron to attend an "urgent" meeting of the devolved governments to explain why they were not consulted.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the PM would respond in "due course".

The spokesperson added: "This does seem to be an opportunistic attempt to deflect attention from some serious questions the Scottish government has been asked about its currency, fiscal and monetary proposals for an independent Scotland and has so far failed to answer."

At a summit in Brussels on Friday, Mr Cameron blocked changes to the EU's Lisbon Treaty, which were aimed at addressing the euro crisis and preventing a repeat in the future.

'Crucial questions'

He and Chancellor George Osborne have insisted the veto was in part to protect the City of London from excessive intervention by Europe, but Labour and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) have both argued that actually no additional safeguards were achieved.

The treaty changes needed the support of all 27 EU members - including those not in the euro, such as the UK - to go ahead.

In his letter, Mr Salmond demanded answers to "crucial questions" on the decision. They included:

  • what risk assessment, if any, did the UK government undertake of the impact of its veto decision on investment into Scotland and the UK and on negotiations affecting key Scottish industries
  • what assessment, if any, was made of how Scotland's interests will be affected in the EU "by being represented by a UK government that is excluded from important decision-making meetings"
  • and why was the Scottish government and other devolved administrations not consulted in the use of a veto

Mr Salmond also asked about press reports that Mr Cameron's negotiating stance was based on "big internal problems" that agreeing to the Treaty change would present.

The first minister said: "It is an extraordinary state of affairs that while the Scottish government and our agencies were working hard to promote Scotland's interests and industries in China, David Cameron was blundering into apparently changing the UK's entire relationship with the European Union - without even discussing it with his own Lib Dem coalition colleagues, never mind the devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

"Given that David Cameron took it upon himself to isolate the UK in Europe - from non-euro and the euro members alike - and without a word of consultation, he now needs to answer six key questions about the implications for Scotland of what he has done.

"As the price of playing to his own backbenchers, the prime minister now leads a riven administration - with zero credibility in EU negotiations across the range of policy areas where Scotland's interests are crucially affected.

"Last week's developments in Brussels demonstrate that Scotland urgently needs a voice at the top table when our vital national interests are being discussed, by becoming an independent member state, instead of being shut out of the room."

SNP policy is to keep the pound after independence and hold a referendum on whether to adopt the euro when conditions are favourable.

The party argues that Scotland would continue its place in the EU after leaving the UK, becoming a member state in its own right.

The new accord, signed by all but the UK, will hold eurozone members to strict budgetary rules including:

  • a cap of 0.5% of GDP on countries' annual structural deficits
  • "automatic consequences" for countries whose public deficit exceeds 3% of GDP
  • a requirement to submit their national budgets to the European Commission, which will have the power to request that they be revised

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