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2nd Mar 2024

Scotland not giving up on EU membership

  • Two of three Scots voted to stay in the EU. In Edinburgh, they were three of four. (Photo: Kirsty McWhirter)

Scotland is too special to set an example for other parts of Europe that are considering independence and EU membership, a Scottish National party (SNP) MP has said.

”We have a very different constitutional set-up than Spain, for instance,” Stephen Gethins, SNP’s Westminster spokesperson for Europe, told this website on Monday (11 July).

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  • Stephen Gethins MP. (Photo: SNP)

”Scottish people are already sovereign people. Britain is a union of four countries,” he said.

The MP visited Brussels to repeat the message that has been trumpeted from Scotland ever since a majority Brits voted to leave the EU, but two out of three Scots opted to stay in.

That message was that people had voted to remain in the EU and Scotland was ready to do what it takes to keep them there - including seeking independence once again.

Gethins said at a press conference also on Monday that pro-European sentiment has grown amid the chaos in Westminster.  

”If you write down the plans that Westminster has for a leave vote on the back of a fag packet, you would still have plenty of room left,” the MP said.

”When we held a referendum two years ago, we had a blueprint of 670 pages preparing us for the option of exit,” he added.

Britain's outgoing prime minister had not shown much concern for Scotland's EU feelings ahead of the referendum, the MP said.

Gethins had proposed to secure the EU referendum with a ”double lock” by which England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales would all have to vote to leave the EU if Brexit were to happen. 

”David Cameron rejected the option,” Gethins said.

Scottish MEP Alyn Smith, appearing along Gethins at Monday’s press conference, said that Scotland’s commitment to Europe was well-received by other EU nations.

The MEP became famous for delivering a passionate speech during a European Parliamentary debate on Brexit in June.

"I want my country to be internationalist, co-operative, ecological, fair, European. And the people of Scotland, along with the people of Northern Ireland, and the people of London, and lots of people in Wales and England also, voted to Remain within our family of nations,” Smith had said.

The European Parliament gave him a standing ovation at the time.

But minutes later, MEPs voted down an amendment that recalled Scots' will to stay in the EU, which had been added to the EP resolution on the UK’s decision to leave the EU, casting doubt on how far their sympathy for Scotland’s cause actually stretched.

Spain’s caretaker prime minister Mariano Rajoy tried to dash Scottish hopes by warning that he was ”extremely opposed” to the idea of EU talks with Scotland, and said that Scotland would leave the EU together with the UK.

French president Francois Hollande also ruled out separate talks with Scotland.

Both countries have their own independence-minded regions to keep in check, such as Catalonia in Spain or Corsica in France.

On the other side, some politicians, including German commissioner Gunther Oettinger and Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the European Parliament's liberal group, have said that Scotland would be welcomed back to the EU once it applied for membership as an independent country.

Their statements implied that the only way for Scotland to stay in the EU is to seek independence.

Gethins declined to discuss the ways to keep Scotland in the EU, however.

He said that a committee of experts, appointed by Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, which would convene for the first time on Thursday, would discuss the options.

But the MP voiced EU optimism time and again.

”The EU has found solutions in the past and will again find solutions in the future,” Gethins said.

”Democratic institutions should reflect the will of the people,” he added.

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