Scottish independence and EU membership - how would it work?
by Ian Hudghton
An independent Scotland, critics say, would be a new accession state and so would have to get in line behind Serbia but this is simply scaremongering - claims Scottish MEP
Despite the ongoing economic troubles in the eurozone, the likelihood is that the European Union will continue to expand its membership in the coming years. Just over a month ago, the people of Croatia voted by a margin of two to one to join the EU and so they are expected to become member state number 28 in slightly over a year. The people of Iceland are still seemingly hesitant towards the EU and, with the credit rating agencies recently declaring Iceland's sovereign rating as safe "investment grade" - support for accession may flatline. Nevertheless, negotiations are ongoing and there's still a chance that Iceland will create an EU consisting of 29 member states.
And with Serbia likely to gain full candidate status by the end of this week, it seems that they too will be on course to join the club. So should we assume that Serbia will become the 30th member state? The answer to that question may well be "no". While various countries from outside the EU are lining up to seek entry, movements within the union may well lead to an increase in member states through a process - which might be described as "internal enlargement". The Scottish government has announced that a referendum on Scotland's independence will be held in the autumn of 2014. And opinion polls show that support for independence is growing.
The situation of an existing member state dividing in two is unprecedented for the EU. However, the United Kingdom's legal mechanics are clear: Scotland and England united to form a single state by a treaty in 1707. Should the people of Scotland democratically vote for their country's independence, two successor states will be formed: an independent Scotland and the remainder of the UK or "rUK". Opponents of Scottish independence have sought to sew scare stories as regards to Scotland's future role in the EU. Scotland, they say, will be a new accession state and so will have to get in line behind Serbia. Even assuming all goes smoothly, they claim, the Spanish will veto Scotland's entry so as not to encourage nationalist movements in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia.
These stories are patently nonsense. Scotland is already part of the EU. The people of Scotland are already EU citizens and the already independent Scottish legal system is fully compliant with the community aquis. Just as there is no precedent for a member state dividing in two, so there is no precedent or provision for an existing part of the union being expelled. The stories have also been torpedoed this week by both the European Commission and the Spanish government. In a written answer to a Catalan MEP, the commission described both Scotland and rUK as "the parties concerned" in negotiations for Scottish independence. No distinction was made between the two entities. The statement went on to speak of the future relationship "between those parties and European Union partners". Again, no distinction drawn and both parties described equally as "EU partners".
Meanwhile, at a conference in London last week, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo stated: "If the two parts of the UK are in agreement that Scottish independence is in accord with their constitutional arrangement, written or unwritten, Spain would have nothing to say; we would simply maintain that it does not affect us." Prospects of a Spanish veto seem to have been overstated. The reality is that the decision on Scottish independence is one for the people of Scotland to take. The European treaties are founded on "principles of liberty and democracy", and it is inconceivable that the democratic will of Scotland's people would be thwarted by the EU.
Scottish independence will give the country a commissioner, a full seat at the European Council and increased representation in the European Parliament. On the great many issues where Scotland and the rUK will continue to have shared concerns, their combined voices will be stronger than at present. On issues where priorities differ, votes will be cast accordingly. Scotland is in the EU and will continue to be in the union - only playing a fuller role. Scotland can look forward to that fuller role and the rest of the EU can look forward to our positive engagement.
Ian Hudghton MEP is president of the Scottish National Party
Uncertainty dominates Scotland independence vote
It is wise to be cautious about what supporters and opponents of Scottish independence claim about the impact the vote will have, but people are nevertheless hungry for information about the momentous decsion, writes Jim Gallagher
Rubbish. Scotland's voice is far stronger in the UK as it is one of the three largest countries as opposed to being a country the in a lower decile. Scotland's voice is strongest when magnified through the UK, a country which has existed for 305 years with huge success. Separation is mad and unnecessary. I think the rest of the UK should now have devolved powers with greater tax raising abilities to create a federal UK.
Dan, Scotland does not have any voice as part of the UK. Westminster makes sure of that. As DC's veto proved, only the City of London has a voice in the EU. As an independent country, as said above, we will have a commissioner, a full seat at the European Council and more representation in the European Parliament. How can that possibly be negative?
No name supplied
Just to be clear, I am in favour of Scottish independence. The ability to set economic policy will guarantee Scotland can compete and grow its economy for the benefit of all its citizens. You, however, are in my opinion talking nonsense on the matter of the EU and should know better given the EU's stance on this matter.
If the Scottish split from the UK, it is possible that rUK will also need to re-apply for EU membership and there are plenty in the EU who would be more than happy to see the city of London outside of the EU. There is also a sizeable number of the rUK population who want to withdraw from the EU so would lobby hard for a referendum on EU membership. How do you think that will go?.
It is perfectly possible that rUK could withdraw from the EU as an indirect reaction to Scottish Independence.
Dan, "Scotland does not have any voice as part of the UK". Rubbish. Scotland is represented democratically and equally the same as the rest of the UK. There is no argument otherwise, it's just nationalist rhetoric. Scotland has succeeded in the world partly thanks to the ingenuity of Scottish people, but also because of the UK. Together, the UK has accomplished so much, and it would be a shame for it to go to waste. Nats always try to separate the UK as "us and them", for which, it simply, is not the case.
No name supplied - Scotland
On the subject of being a "successor" state, you only get to be one if the "predecessor" state agrees to hand over rights and responsibities. That is a matter of international law. But then, what would one expect from the president of the SNP.
Why would the rUK have to be considered an "accession" state? It would be losing less than 10 per cent of its population. And there seems to be a question mark about the route that the Orkneys and Shetlands would take. They don't seem to be too keen on following mainland Scotland.
And let's say that the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland stayed in the EU? What fun as they vote against Scottish accession every time the subject comes up. Or the UK leaves but Scotland gets in.
Still a closed border. Still need passports, visas, evidence of travel arrangements, health/medical insurance and evidence of adequate available funds. All the things that non-UK nationals need.
And Scotland should start preparing for major changes. Scots living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will need to be repatriated. They will need jobs, homes, schools, hospitals, welfare benefits.
At the same time, UK-owned industries will be moving south. Even Scottish industries may find that they have no work. British requirements for ship-building, for instance, could be moved to Belfast - re-invigorating Harland & Wolff. What Scotland needs is for a whole range of things to go exactly right. Will they? They rarely do.
Brian - Farnham