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SNP President Ian Hudghton MEP has today criticised the failure to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty during a key debate on the issue at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The SNP MEP also slammed the decision to hand more control over fisheries policy to Brussels.
MEPs in Strasbourg were debating the Lisbon Treaty (successor to the rejected EU constitution) with representatives of the European Commission and EU governments. The Treaty is supposed to establish more efficient working arrangements for the European Union which has grown from fifteen to twenty seven member states in recent years. But Mr Hudghton said that the new Treaty is so similar to the old Constitution that failure to give people a say in a referendum is inexcusable.
Mr Hudghton emphasised Scotland's enthusiasm to play a full role in the European Union and his regret that the new Lisbon Treaty failed to give a more direct role for the Scottish Parliament or the devolved Parliaments of other countries seeking independence.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Hudghton said:
"I fully accept that it is necessary, in a European Union of 27 Member States, to update the working rules and arrangements which operated in a Union of 15. I also accept that much of the content, such as the increase in powers of this Parliament and opening up the Council decision making process, is positive and sensible.
"But looking at the detail, from my viewpoint as a representative of Scotland, I have serious concerns about some imperfections which Commissioner Wallstrom acknowledged. Much is made of the new right of "National" Parliaments to intervene. But this does not apply to the devolved "National" Parliament of Scotland, or other stateless nations.
"The Treaty process failed to address the issue of a single seat for the European Parliament, leaving us with the indefensible situation of trekking between Brussels and Strasbourg.
"I cannot support the inclusion of the common Fisheries Policy as one of only 4 'exclusive competences' of the Union, listed in the Treaty.
"This, I fear, could seriously impede progress towards radical change in the management of Fisheries, by preserving the over-centralised failure which the CFP has become. This is particularly incongruous following the December Fisheries Council, which took a tentative step towards decentralisation when it recognised voluntary measures being implemented by Scotland, and gave us an element of local control this year.
"My party favoured a referendum on the Constitution. This Treaty may have a different legal status, but in substance it is the same. The SNP is simply being consistent by supporting a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. We are not afraid of a public debate on Europe.
"On the contrary, forging a new relationship between Scotland and the EU is central to our vision. We want Scotland to join the family of European nations, playing a constructive part in decision-making as a Member State - NOT an observer from the sidelines."