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Scottish Parliament Speech: European Treaty (September 2007)

See this speech in context on They Work For You.

For the past 27 years, until May this year, I lived and worked in the heart of Europe. Rather like Molière's Monsieur Jourdain, I was speaking Europrose - which is really very boring - without understanding that I was doing so.

My return to these islands was something of a revelation. We are supposed to be the people who have the conventions and the eloquence that make political institutions work. In Scotland, in particular, we invented the European Union. The first proposals for a union came from an Edinburgh professor, Professor Lorimer, in 1884. David Edward and Judge Mackenzie-Stuart in the European Court of Justice added considerably to the flesh of European institutions, and in the 1980s Scotland convinced the father of Europe, Emile Noël, secretary general of the EU, that it could join the EU without having to open negotiations on its own, as that minor figure, Commissioner Borg, has suggested it would have to do.

The European Union is surely in an awkward phase. We must realise that we are witnessing a two-speed Europe and the re-emergence of a European core. That core includes the non-EU state of Switzerland as much as it includes the non-EU state of Norway. We are in a position of manoeuvre in Europe and we must make that a major priority.

Core Europe gets together quickly and rapidly. In a weekend when it took me three and a half hours to travel from Cologne to the English frontier, it subsequently took me seven and a half hours - the speed of a steam train - to get from London to Edinburgh, because of the deterioration of the British transportation system. In core Europe, frontiers are vanishing, and when the alpine tunnels open, northern Italy will be part of that core.

British opinion about Europe is directed by Europe's worst press, owned by Richard Desmond, Conrad Black - he might already be in prison - Rupert Murdoch and the mysterious Barclay brothers.

Of course, Gordon Brown must make up certain credibility gaps. In an article on him in The Guardian in 2003, Andy Beckett wrote: "Anyone suggesting European or German precedents or organisations would be regarded as mad." Such a view from London does not give cause for optimism for the future.

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