THERE were some surprises for me over the last couple of days when I did some reading about the European Free Trade Organisation. Firstly it began in 1963, in response to the common market of six nations which had started up three years previously. The UK had imperiously declined to join the Common Market. A second surprise was that the UK was a founding member of EFTA. Together they comprised the “outer seven” as they encircled the common market and consisted of Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. It was a rival trade body to the EU in those days.

It is sometimes asserted that the prevention of European and global wars was the driving force behind the creation of the common market but this pacifist motivation was a side-shoot of the real reason for the common market coming into being: the old Europe of multiple states, languages, currencies and bureaucracies could not realistically compete with new superpowers like the US. It may not be very common knowledge but, from the very start, there was a purposeful drive towards European integration.

And it was successful to a degree that EFTA couldn’t match. Growth was looked upon with envy by the outside seven. Portugal couldn’t join the Common Market as it didn’t fit the democratic criterion, being still under dictatorship, the UK tried twice in the 60s but was rejected by General de Gaulle as we were too cosy with the Americans, but eventually entered in 1973 along with Ireland and Denmark, significantly weakening EFTA as a result. The trend was continued in 1986 when Portugal eventually joined the EU and in January 1995 when Sweden and Austria joined too.

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Was EFTA thus a failed rival, fatally weakened by this absorption of most of the major nations into its rival? No, it hasn’t failed. Switzerland and Norway do well, very well. But Switzerland has a marvellous strategic position in the absolute trading heart of Europe and in truth has always done well, and Norway has a marvellous, though finite, black liquid mineral resource, cherished and well-stewarded unlike the closest comparator nation Scotland, wherein most inhabitants don’t really know in what ways successive Westminster governments have used the oil revenues – they weren’t exactly open about it, after all.

EFTA has cleverly negotiated a set of bilateral agreements with the EU so they benefit from being in the single market, although that is dependent on them adopting the free movement of citizens into and from the EU, something the Swiss are having some difficulties with at the moment and which obviously could be a stumbling block for the UK, but which many see as actually being in Scotland’s best interest when the economics and the demographics are looked at.

EFTA or EU membership? Well, the EU seems to want Britain back and Norway has voiced serious doubts about such a large nation returning to EFTA. Getting back into (or simply remaining) in the EU would seem to be the simpler option, even if in Scotland’s case if we chose independence we would have to formally apply. This last point is of course why there ought to be a national outcry against Theresa May’s stated to desire to take all of the UK out of the EU before allowing Scots a referendum. It’s vindictive as well as harmful to our prospects.

EFTA relies on the above bilateral agreements for a large measure of its prosperity, so it is my view that it is more advantageous to be a full EU member state, especially as small nations like Scotland wield big influence on the whole within the EU. Think smart Scotland, think EU. And we choose the timing of the referendum.
David Crines
Hamilton

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Let’s hear the other side of the myth of Dunkirk

ONE of the features which I regularly enjoy in The National is Hamish MacPherson’s Scottish History. Like many readers, I would think, I have found the articles enlightening and enriching. It is amazing how little knowledge we have of the history of our nation.

Shortly there will be a major release at the cinema which in the current political environment will no doubt be getting glowing reports (some of which may even be warranted). I mean of course the release of the epic Dunkirk. By coincidence a closely related event which took place on June 12, 1940, (well after the little ships had left the beaches of Dunkirk) that is to say 77 years ago this week, has received precious little coverage and is unlikely even to be mentioned in reviews of the Dunkirk story. That event was the surrender of the 51st Highland Division at Saint Valery en Caux.

The circumstances of the surrender were kept hushed at the time for obvious reasons during wartime but the effects were felt throughout Scotland, not least in the Highlands and Islands where many families were affected as fathers, sons and brothers were killed, injured and taken prisoner.

For those interested there are a number of books which cover the story to a greater or lesser degree. Probably the most informative of these being Churchill’s Sacrifice of the Highland Division by Saul David. Interestingly, more recently St Valery And It’s Aftermath, written by Stewart Mitchell has shed some new light on the experiences of those taken prisoner, most specifically Gordon Highlanders, and who spent the ensuing five years in POW camps throughout Germany.

At a time when a number of papers and their reviewers will no doubt be in full “what made Britain Great” mode it would be interesting to read an article which brings to light the other side of Dunkirk. Speaking as the son of a Gordon Highlander I know that I would greatly appreciate such an article.
Archie Hamilton
Glasgow

BOB Doris, Maryhill and Springburn SNP MSP, raised the issue of his constituents concerns at the safety aspects of so many high flats in the area. It is fashionable now to blame to blame the official Tories for everything and let the pinko Tories aff the hook and ignore their past record and disgraceful history.

The US stopped building these death-traps and blew them up in the early 60s, as a social failure, as well as heath and safety concerns. The USSR had a social mix with professors next door to road sweepers, etc, plus social amenities inside the flats, such as shops, function centres, etc, as I believe is also done in Australia and elsewhere.

Here Glesga Cooncil still went ahead with these broon-envelope flats single-class flats. By the time the message seeped down from the London brain to the Labour dinosaur’s tail in Scotland it was decided to build no more.

Hutchie E flats were first to come down, managing to blow up a granny and her daughter. Red Road and Sighthill flats were next to come down. There are still far too many left in Scotland.

Who remembers them being built amid protests, and SNP Councillor Frank Hannigan, repeatedly warning and opposing the construction of the notorious Hutchie E? The builders warned the cooncil that these concrete flats were meant for a Mediterranean climate, not a wet one like ours.

The cooncil kept asking how much without air conditioning, etc. Eventually, the contractors gave in under pressure and cajolements. Residents were even blamed for having sex and heavy breathing. How else would mushrooms grow out of the damp walls?

When the late SNP politician Bill Johnston, was elected Provost of Clydebank, he tried to oppose jerry-building and material-skimping there and was outvoted.

My point? By all means attack the Tories. By all means travel to London for a Corbyn propaganda parade but never forget who is best at deceiving the working class.

We have seen it all before with the Benn and Feet families getting to power for yet another Carry On England series. Those half-hearted Yessers who voted Corbyn got Dugdale’s Seven Safties instead, who will work against Corbyn as much as they worked against the Scottish people.
Donald Anderson
Glasgow