The worst of all worlds for Scotland on TTIP and CETA
24 March 2016
Successive Scottish governments have prided themselves on going beyond Westminster to protect public health, public services and the environment here in Scotland.
Scotland banned smoking in public places before the rest of the UK, Scotland set higher targets for cutting carbon emissions than the UK government did, the NHS here is less privatised than in England and Wales, and Scotland has set a moratorium on fracking and committed to no new nuclear power stations.
Under TTIP and CETA, these kinds of things could be threatened. Any or all of these could result in trans-national companies suing for compensation on the basis that they could threaten profits.
But just this week we discovered an extra dimension to all this – and something which we think the Scottish government should be really worried about.
In answer to a PQ submitted to the Westminster government by SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, we learned that if trans-national companies decided to sue for compensation under TTIP for lost profits as a result of the policies of the Scottish government, then it would be the UK government who would fight those cases – but if the UK government lost then the Scottish government would have to pay the compensation.
So, imagine this: the Scottish government extends its moratorium on fracking to become a ban. But under TTIP or CETA, the oil and gas industry sues for loss of future profits. Under the rules of TTIP and CETA, the UK government would be the main defendant in the case, despite the ban being a Scottish government decision (and despite the UK government having quite a different position on fracking – ie in favour). That could be a frustrating experience for the Scottish Government (and excruciating for anti-fracking campaigners). But worse than that, if the UK government lost the case, the Scottish government would be expected to pay the compensation to the company.
We’ve known for a long time that TTIP will hand more power than ever to big business. Now we also know that when business uses that power to challenge Scottish government policy, then Scotland will have to rely on Westminster to fight its battles while bearing the financial burden if it loses.
We’ve been calling on the SNP as a party and as the Scottish Government for a long time to oppose TTIP and CETA. They’ve said they’re worried about the threat to public services, and they’ve said they don’t support a separate court system for business to challenge governments, but they keep stopping short of opposing TTIP and CETA outright.
The SNP wants an independent Scotland with the sovereignty to take its own decisions, but it’s risking ceding power to both Westminster and multinational corporations by not opposing TTIP.
With this new evidence, we’ve written again this week to Nicola Sturgeon urging her party to oppose TTIP and calling on her as First Minister to write to David Cameron. We’ve also asked her to listen to her party members and to the public on this issue, because if she does she’ll hear a large and growing wave of disquiet and outright opposition to TTIP and CETA.