01 August 2007

We might be going down, but at least we're taking London with us!

We're also taking NW England, SW England, the West Midlands and the East Midlands down.

The aforementioned areas find themselves being put forward to lose a seat in the European Parliament come 2009, as the UK will have only 72 MEPs against the current 78.

Anyway, the proposal has not gone down well, and the Electoral Commission has noted this. But the fascinating thing is that while Devolution became an argument for the cut in MP numbers from 72 to 59, it appears to be an argument against a cut in MEP numbers from seven to six. This came from all of the seven MEPs themselves:

"The formal responsibility of the Scottish Parliament to implement EU obligations places a legislative and scrutiny burden upon it which in turn requires greater input from ourselves than is the case elsewhere in the UK. It should be borne in mind that in addition to attending UK-wide meetings such as those between MPs and MEPs, we also fulfil specific roles in relation to both the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament’s committees..."

So while Devolution is perceived to have reduced an MP's workload, the MEPs argue that it has actually increased theirs. Of course, there might be an element of turkeys not wanting to vote for Christmas, but they do have a point.

I hate to bring this up, but the UK as a whole is assigned 72 MEPs following the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU. This is detailed in the Treaty of Nice. Scotland's proportion of electors in the United Kingdom gives it six of those, so as part of the UK, on the criteria that the Electoral Commission have to work with, six is a fair number. But as part of the EU, Scotland does get shafted: states that have a slightly smaller population that Scotland's get double that allocation, and those that are ever-so-slightly larger get thirteen MEPs, but remember that there is now a cap on the number of MEPs anyway. It's 732, in case you're wondering. So if Scotland were to gain independence before 2014 (assuming that Scotland remains in the EU), then the number of seats Scotland would be entitled to would come from other member states' allocations at the European Elections in that year. And it's not set in stone (in fact, not that likely at all), that the UK would lose six seats from its allocation to compensate: a loss of one or at most two is more likely.

Basically, Scotland's representation would go up, most likely to 12, even with that correction. And the other UK nations' representations would also go up to at least 70, from the 66 that is being proposed by the Electoral Commission.

It does make you wonder: how can Scotland be 'punching above its weight' on the world stage thanks to the Union, when its delegation to the European Parliament is half the size of what it would be if Scotland were independent? (And, from the other side of the coin, how is the Union good for England, when its own delegation is also smaller than it otherwise would be, albeit by a much smaller proportion: 59 as against a hypothetical 63/64?)

The Union Dividend, is, I'm afraid, not applicable to Scotland's relationship with Europe. Or England's, for that matter.

PS Who else gets six MEPs? Estonia (pop. 1,350,000 approx), Cyprus (pp. 855,000) and Luxembourg (estimated pop. 480,000). Just a thought.


Angry Steve said...

We could, of course, leave the EU, then this wouldn't be a problem.

Let the work-shy bastards get real jobs.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Hmm, yes, exactly what use is an MEP (I mean, the Scots Tory ones make even the Holyrood shower look competent) anyway? They all seem to go native on the first exodus from Brussels to Strasbourg (UKIP excepted).

Even assuming there was a point to them in collection (or Collective, as in Borg), an increase in the Jock representation from 0.96% to 1.64% of, as Steve so eloquently puts it, "workshy bastards" would improve things how?


Will said...

Well, the EU is pretty crappy at times, but I think leaving it wouldn't make it any less crappy and we should be trying harder to do that from within.

Anyway, to answer your question, SE, you're right that with Scotland being small and Europe being big, the odds are stacked against it somewhat, so having fewer MEPs than Scotland could have only makes a relatively weak position even weaker. Also, coming with that increase would come direct representation on the Council of Ministers (which wears the trousers) rather than having to rely on the goodwill of the UK Government to put Scotland's interests across. =