1. My comment on the White Paper is in the form of a statement of opinion originally offered to the Scottish Parliament's European Committee on issues of European Governance raised by the Commission's paper. I did so in a personal capacity as a Member of the European Parliament (and of its Legal Affairs and Constitutional Affairs Committees). My position is of course informed by my stance as a member and office-bearer of the Scottish National Party, but it should not be read as in any way stating an official party position. Rather, I offered it as an individual MEP in the spirit of seeking to contribute one element to closer interaction between the European and the Scottish Parliaments, through the committee process.
2. Perhaps it is the case that an attempt to contribute to mutual understanding between two significant levels of governance in Europe will be of wider interest, for example in the context of this symposium.
3. The issue of governance deserves critical scrutiny in the light of Scotland's current constitutional position, and future constitutional options. Seen from here, current constitutional discourse in Europe is inadequate in several respects. This is because debate is far too exclusively focussed on the relations between Union and Member States. This is seriously detrimental to those parts of the Union that are internal nations of `union states'. Union states such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy and even (though this is easy to forget) France came into being by various processes through historical unions of previously independent and self-governing parts.
4. These parts lay claim to continuing nationhood to the extent that they retain a cultural and civic consciousness of the kind that is constitutive of nationality. In some cases this is buttressed by continuity of civic and ecclesiastical institutions (compare Scots Law, and the Church of Scotland or the continuing or restored Scottish hierarchies in Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches). Hence they are appropriately considered to be internal nations of union states, or 'stateless nations' (though both before and after constitutional devolution they have in truth amounted to nations with incomplete institutions of state, rather than nations with none at all).
5. Most aspire to, and many have achieved, the status of constitutionally self-governing countries within their respective Member States. As such, they have constitutional powers of government normally covering all three main branches of state, judicial, executive and legislative; though in some cases not all branches are present. In all cases there are external constitutional restraints that entail non-sovereignty of the internal nations' institutions of state. These restraints do not contradict the fact that their people may (either directly, or through representatives, as in the case of the Scottish `Claim of Right' of 1988) claim sovereign rights of self-government, and can ground these in ancient constitutional tradition. So long (but only so long) as the majority of the people in question upholds the present constitutional dispensation, the devolved or federal dispensation in question is compatible with that claim of sovereignty.
6. In the perspective of the Member State's constitution (for example, that of the UK), the powers of these internal nations (Scotland and Wales; Northern Ireland is a special case, while England as a nation is represented only through UK institutions) are subordinate powers from a legal point of view. Politically, however, they appear to be so solidly entrenched in the popular will of the internal nation as to be in practice irrevocable, save in barely foreseeable circumstances that would be quite extraordinary in kind.
7. The position of such self-governing internal nations within states is in some respects comparable with that of the Länder of a federation such as Germany or Austria (indeed, some Länder, most obviously Bavaria, are clear instances of what are here called `internal nations'). Recent contributions to the European constitutional debate have used the term 'constitutional regions' to denote entities such as internal nations or nationalities and federal lands or provinces with substantial constitutionally guaranteed or politically entrenched powers. The constant use of the term `nation state' as a description of EU Member States, whether unitary states or union states, entails, however, that the term 'region' is ideologically loaded in favour of the nation-statist pretensions of Member State governments. I use it here with reluctance and subject to this caveat.