22nd Oct 2016

Scottish EU membership 'not in serious doubt'

  • British flags in Edinburgh (Photo: Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture)

Scotland’s EU membership “is not in any serious doubt” if the country votes for independence, according to new research by constitutional experts.

Published on Wednesday (20 August), the report by Edinburgh University professor Stephen Tierney and Katie Boyle, a constitutional lawyer, on behalf of the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council examines the legal questions facing an independent Scotland.

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  • Scots go to the polls on 18 September to decide whether to split from the UK. (Photo: EUobserver)

It says that “the accession of an independent Scotland to the European Union is not in any serious doubt”, even in the likely event the new country is unable to finalise its membership terms in the 18-month window between the 18 September referendum and the Scottish government’s planned declaration of independence in March 2016.

“In the event that formal accession has not been secured by Independence Day, it is likely that temporary provisions will be put in place to ensure that the rights and obligations arising from the EU treaties will continue to apply to Scotland in the interim period,” the report adds.

Scots go to the polls on 18 September to decide whether to split from the UK.

With less than a month to go, the Better Together campaign, which wants Scotland to remain part of the UK, holds a 10 point lead, but the gap has closed in recent month.

The report’s findings will be a welcome bump for pro-independence campaigners.

The Scottish Nationalist government has claimed it will be able to re-negotiate its EU membership from inside the 28 country bloc by using Article 48 of the EU treaty.

Meanwhile, the Better Together campaign, which opposes independence, has seized on remarks by Jose Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European Commission, who earlier said Scotland would not receive special treatment and would have to go through the formal accession procedure used by all previous applicants.

Whichever route Scotland takes would require the consent of all EU member states, a process which Barroso described as “extremely difficult, if not impossible”, since other countries, such as Spain, are reluctant to avoid the precedent of breakaway provinces joining the bloc.

The Spanish government is currently battling plans by Catalonia to hold a referendum on its own independence in November.

For its part, Wednesday’s report notes that while Article 48 offers a "plausible route to [Scotland’s] membership depending upon the political will" of the EU, a formal, Barroso-type application is the more likely option.

Pro-Union campaigners have also said Scotland would lose its share of the UK’s €3 billion per year rebate from the EU budget and would receive lower agricultural subsidies.

But the Nationalists have dismissed these claims as “scaremongering”, noting that UK prime minister David Cameron’s plans to hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017 pose the biggest threat to Soctland’s EU status.

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