Point of Order
Alex Salmond (Parliamentary Leader (Westminster); Banff and Buchan, Scottish National Party)
I would have to be a little more than First Minister for a devolved Scotland to engage in that. I would have to be Prime Minister of an independent Scotland. I am glad the hon. Gentleman has raised the point. In fact, I was not criticising him. I was speaking about one of his Back Benchers, who seemed to be convinced by the CFP.
In many debates over the past few years, the Conservative party had a certainty on the issue. That certainty seems to have disappeared entirely. When Scotland becomes independent, we shall be within the European Union. We will inherit the same treaty obligations as this Government and previous Governments have signed. We will inherit the ones that we like, and we will inherit the ones that we dislike. That position has been confirmed by Lord Mackenzie-Stuart—in work commissioned by the Conservative party, incidentally. It has been confirmed by Emil Noel and Maître De Roux—virtually every major authority on EU legislation.
The question is whether we can negotiate to reassert natural control in terms of the fisheries policy of the European Union. First, is that desirable? I say it is. The Conservatives used to say it is. They are currently in limbo. Secondly, can it be done? We would have to establish whether there was support from other Europeans for such a policy. I therefore turn to the proceedings of the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament of
Shamefully, this Government have never chosen to make fisheries a priority so that we could base our negotiations on such a position; indeed, no British Government have done so. Mr. Howard the former Conservative leader who now speaks so eloquently from the Back Benches, made that point well during the election campaign, assuring us that if he became Prime Minister, he would be prepared to veto the European constitution on the basis that fisheries would not be an exclusive competence. I hope that once the Conservatives' policy committee finally comes to a conclusion, similar resolve is shown by the current Conservative leader as was shown by his predecessor.