Is the Scottish National Party in touch with its membership on TTIP?
17 March 2016
I think the short answer to that question recently is no. But if our fringe meeting at the SNP conference last weekend was anything to go by, then the SNP would have to be wilfully deaf not to hear the vociferous opposition to TTIP and CETA from its party members.
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP, party spokesperson on trade and investment, spoke at the fringe meeting and while she was clear that the SNP opposes any kind of corporate court system in TTIP or CETA, she also said that the SNP believes that a ‘TTIP lite’ could be achieved and would support such a thing. That didn’t go down well with the audience of SNP members.
The comments and questions from audience members during the meeting showed that they were clearly worried that even a TTIP-lite (whatever that is – and we never really quite got to the bottom of that) would have few benefits for Scotland. They also complained that the SNP are placing themselves dangerously close to the Tories by supporting TTIP (even this ‘lite’ version), since it is so clear that TTIP and CETA were conceived by the City of London and are being driven by the Conservative government in Westminster.
And they questioned how the SNP could say that they are standing up for the interests of Scotland on the one hand and then support something that could threaten public services, local procurement, small businesses, the fracking moratorium, tobacco and alcohol legislation and more here in Scotland. You have to wonder how the SNP can square wanting an independent Scotland with the sovereignty to take decisions in the best interests of the Scottish people, and yet not oppose TTIP and CETA which would subject Scotland to the will of corporations.
That Scottish Labour has passed a motion at its autumn conference entirely opposing TTIP was also noted. In fact, apart from Tasmina and her fellow speaker Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp from Business for Scotland, there wasn’t a single comment or question in favour of TTIP or CETA. And when Gordon asked for a show of hands of who opposed these deals, pretty much the entire audience put their hands up.
What was notable was that, on the one hand, Tasmina seemed to slightly taken aback at the strength of feeling in the room, but on the other she was also clearly listening and taking note. So, if the penny has dropped that the position on TTIP and CETA being stated in public by SNP elected representatives is at odds with the party members, what now remains to be seen is what, if anything, will change.