FOR the New Year another country quietly glided fully into Europe, which, of course, is none-too-hidden code for the European Union.

It adopted the euro. It entered Schengen. Its population can now travel from Rhodes to Hesteyri and Kirkenes to Sagres check- and exchange-free.

The country is Croatia. It has a population of just 3.8 million, two-thirds of ours, so it is not as if its size means it can do what we cannot. The impediments lie elsewhere and, moreover, were never agreed by us, in fact quite the contrary. And the impacts become daily more apparent with more to come. Let me give an example.

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We have a health problem in the family, a sick relative outwith the UK with long-term care needs, which we may not be able to fulfil either now or in the very near future. From November 2023, travel to Schengen will require a UK citizen to have a visa, and already there is in place a 90-in-180-day limitation. But here is the crux. Whilst Rhodes and Sagres are in Greece and Portugal and therefore EU, Hesteyri is in Iceland and Kirkenes in Norway and non-EU. The bottom line is that, whilst Schengen effectively covers Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, it also specifically includes Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. In fact the only current EU member outwith the zone is Ireland, and who knows how long that will last.

So what does this mean for Scotland? Top of the list is increasing un-agreed isolation from all sides, politically and practically south of the Border included. However, the solutions lie with us.

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First, it is increasingly clear that to travel abroad, connections from all of Scotland’s airports to and onward from one-airport Amsterdam, Paris or Dublin offer more than chaotic, four-airport London. Those alternative routes need to be encouraged. Second, for surface transport Dover to Calais is for all sorts of reasons a bottle-neck. We need our own connection. We had one once – Rosyth to Zeebrugge, which was reduced to freight only and then in 2018 ended fully – but there is talk of resumption this year. It needs to happen and be committed to by our government in the same way as Oban to Barra or Grutness to Fair Isle.

And there can be more. We have our own currency. London-legal-tender arguments affirm. So let us utilise it finally to our advantage with three possibilities. The first is, pre-empting the endless discussion of post-independence currency, ASAP simply to replace our pound with the euro. The second is de facto to do so by making the euro legal tender within our borders and work in both. And the third, if all else is blocked, is to pass specifically Scottish legislation to allow, indeed encourage, parallel pricing in and acceptance of the euro in all transactions, in much the same way as is the current case in evolving Northern Ireland and we in fact already do for the English pound.

Then we can watch what happens, whilst showing to our continental European cousins an obvious intent.

Iain Campbell Whittle

50 years ago this week, the UK and Ireland joined the European Economic Community. Back in 1973, Ireland’s economy was weak and it relied for the bulk of its trade with the wealthy UK. How times have changed.

Through its membership of the EU, and its long-established transatlantic connections, small (Scotland-sized) independent Ireland has blossomed to become the world’s 27th-largest economy, with exports to the EU and US now accounting for 60% of the country’s $20 billion total.

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Ireland has also become a key actor on the world stage; it was a member of the UN Security Council for the 2021-2022 term and it sends more troops on UN peacekeeping missions than the UK. Since 1973, Ireland’s trade with the UK has fallen to less than 20% and this reduction continues thanks to Brexit.

At the start of 2023, the economic position of the two countries could not be more different; according to World Bank data, Ireland has one the world’s highest GDPs per capita ($100,000), compared to the UK’s lowly $46,500, and unlike the “zero-growth” UK, this confident, connected and lucky country is looking forward to economic growth in 2023 of a healthy 3.2%. In short (and despite having less natural resources than Scotland), Ireland has successfully decoupled its economy from the UK’s and has a bright future ahead of it.

See it, Scotland, and weep.

D Jamieson

ISN’T is easy peasy when not in power to call for more money for the Scottish Child Payment?

The SNP government have been praised nationwide for the support they have given to families in Scotland. Yet here we go again with Alba calling for another rise, but as usual no detail of where and from which budget the money can be found. Why not a rise to £100 a week? It seems Alba think there is a money tree behind Bute House. So why did Mr Salmond not think of this when he was in charge and execute the child payment rise? Pathetic!

Is there a election coming along?

Ken McCartney